A Helpful Guide to Shared Documentation Part I: Structuring your Shared Drive

We wrote a 3 part guide to getting shared documentation right, and help you improve your organization’s access to information using shared drives.

1- Structuring your Shared Drive (you’re here)

2- Naming Shared Folders and Files

3- Managing Access Rights

Team members spend an average of around 9.3 hours a week trying to find documents, according to a McKinsey report from 2012. This means that in a 5 person team, only 4 are working, the 5th is off searching for information. A more recent study from 2018 by the IDC found that data professionals waste an average of 30% of their time because they could not find or prepare the data they needed. We wrote this series to help you develop faster processes in using your shared drive at work.

During one of our Omnichannel Organization implementation missions, we worked closely with a company who was struggling with its data storage and sharing protocols. There were no clear guidelines about where and how to manage critical information and institutional knowledge. A more efficient process was needed to help teams find the exact files needed for them to complete their task and be more productive.

A clear and defined folder structure is critical when team members collaborate with others. Plan and design your structure that reflects the way you work. Does your team deliver project-led tasks? You may opt to build your folder structure around the names of the projects. Do you need to review documents seasonally? A time frame based structure would perhaps work for you.

The test for a well designed structure is the ability for all the team members to find folders and files intuitively. To achieve this, you will need to design a system that everyone understands and remembers. It also has to withstand the test of time as new joiners are onboarded. A well structured drive means no more guesswork when somebody is searching for a folder or file. No time wasted.

Below is a list of best shared practices for structuring your folders and drives:


  • Create a folder for each department, and in each of those sub-folders for each project.

  • Assign permission to folders accordingly, especially those that could contain private information, or those which have data everyone on the team is likely to need. Our third part of the series focuses on this aspect.

  • Develop a conventional hierarchy for structure, and stick to it: establish what are the parent folders, and what sub-folders should contain. Apply this rule to all departments and projects.

  • Stick to a naming convention, which our second part of the series explores in more detail.

  • Seasonal clean-ups: every three or four months, set a meeting with your team, and focus on adjusting anything within your shared drive structure that needs to be fixed (delete unnecessary folders, and create ones if needed).

  • Communicate your structure and naming convention clearly by having the rules pinned in your workspace, and including them in your onboarding package.


  • Do not create a folder or a subfolder for less than 3 or 4 files. It clutters your search and adds an extra layer of navigation for no good reason.

  • Sweep it under the rug. If you notice someone did not apply the structure convention, even if the mistake might be a very small one, let them know so that the error is not repeated. An accumulation of errors in naming will only backfire in the end, and make the process more difficult. (But don’t change the name of the file without letting its creator know!)

  • Delete anything before you get permission from the owner of the shared drive.

  • Make assumptions that what is obvious to you is to others as well. You might be familiar with certain aspects of the shared drive, but it is possible that your coworkers could be not aware of certain functionalities or limits.

Read Part II: Naming Shared Folders and Files