Maybe you are someone who embraces clutter. Your computer desktop is filled with Word files and Excel spreadsheets, and your Documents folder has thousands of files and folders listed in an order discernible only to you.

Or maybe you are someone who is militant about file organization. Your computer desktop is completely uncluttered, and the desktop image of your children with the family pet smiling on a sunny day is clearly visible. Your Documents folder is neatly organized with file folders that are clearly name filled with files inside nested folders in a way that enables you to find exactly what you need when you need it.

That is good. Embrace and celebrate your system. Let it work for you, and may you continue to get work done and share files with speed and impact. That is one test, and you have passed.

The other test is harder to pass. What if you did not show up to work? What if you suddenly quit, you had to tend to an emergency or the person of your dreams whisked you away on an unexpected three month European adventure? What if someone else had to sit at your computer and find a file. Could they? Could they wade through YOUR storage system to find the file they need.

Your system makes sense. To you. You have a folders for years 2017, 2018, and 2019, and in each of those folders you have folders for Inventory Lists, Receipts and Check Stubs. In each of those folders you have folders for each month, in which you have the documents for those corresponding months in those corresponding years. Perfect. Who couldn’t make sense of that?

Well, this is not going to help me. I am looking just for a specific inventory list, and I don’t know what month or year it is from. Your organization method means nothing to me.

Microsoft is dealing with file organization issues in two vastly different ways, and I think they are backing the wrong horse.

In Yammer, their Enterprise Social Networking tool, there are no file folders at all, only discussion groups. Files appear in a long list which the user needs to scroll down in order to find the file they need.

In Teams, their inline communication and collaboration tool (comparable to Slack), each Team and each channel has the ability to create document folders. Teams is the fastest growing business application in Microsoft history.

There are more file storage capabilities in Teams than in Yammer, but there is at least one major Yammer feature that Teams currently lacks. I think that most people would say this minor difference favors Teams, I would argue otherwise.

We get complaints about the Yammer’s lack of file folders. People find themselves flummoxed by the lack of options. Yet ironically, reviewing Teams activity, I find that folders are rarely used, and when they are used, they are used to little effect. I think folders confuse the issue. I need to think like you. In Teams, I see files more often stored outside of folders, because it takes time to think about where to put a file, and then to actually put the file there.

Folders are static. A file is put in a folder, and unless duplicate copies of a file are created (bad idea), it is in that one folder to stay. A folder has to be named clearly, and the file in that folder needs to be named clearly, and only then, and only if we can think like the person who created the file and the file folder, might we find what we are looking for.

Yammer features topics, otherwise known has hashtags, and the advantage of topics in Yammer is that we can attach more than 20 topics to any one file. Instead of putting the file in a folder that says “Forms,” inside a folder that says “Membership,” inside a folder that says “Complete” we attach those topics. When we look at the file we can clearly see that #Forms, #Membership and #Complete are being used. We can click on any of those topics and see all the other files that have those topics attached as well. Any user can attach more topics, such as #SamtoCheckLater, or #ReviewedMarch19.

In other words, instead of taking the time to put the file inside the one folder that makes sense to us that someone else will then need to find, we are virtually storing the file in several folders at once, so it can be accessible a number of ways, by people who have different organizational strengths, who think it unique strategical ways.

Organizational capabilities are important, and it is comforting to know that there are tools available to users to keep things neatly stored and easily found. But we work quickly, and we don’t take the time store files in the folders available to us. Instead, work with your team to use some “high level” generic topics so you can all quickly store, find and share the information you need.

Please, don’t make me think like you. You are WAY different.

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