A Helpful Guide to Shared Documentation Part III: Managing Access Rights

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

2- Naming Shared Folders and Files

3- Managing Access Rights (you’re here)


Managing who gets access to information is an important component of information management. The security and integrity of the data depends on the rigor imposed on the process of assigning roles to different team members and granting the right level of access to the right users.


There should be a balance between how much information is kept private and confidential, and the uninterrupted flow of data needed for a seamless distributed collaboration experience. As a good practice to ensure information protection compliance, the principle of least privilege can be adopted to define the role and corresponding access level. Meaning one should have access to the minimum information needed for them to perform their role. Speed of execution can be a high predictor of productivity but it should always be carefully weighed against data breach related risk. A simple way to do that is to create shared drives with different access levels and add the relevant team members on their joining day. This means you never again have to worry about team members having access to the right documents and folders.


Once the optimal level of access for different teams has been determined, members will be able to see, access, edit, save and delete files that are shared in the organization's shared drive. There are multiple protocols inherent to the data storage service that a company uses that allows sharing files with specific teams or organization levels and even with external entities.


Below is a list of best shared practices for managing your shared drive's access rights:


DO’s

  • If a file is a template, copy it before you start editing it, so that the template remains accessible in the future.

  • If in doubt about whether you can share this file with others, ask the owner first.

  • Assign a folder or drive guardian who regularly checks and rebalances access rights.

  • When starting a new project, and assigning a new folder to it, make sure everyone involved in it has access to the folder.

  • Make it clear which folders can be used by the whole organization, and which belong to specific projects or workgroups, possibly through a naming convention system.

  • If you are creating a folder for a project in which external parties are involved, make sure their access rights are limited to only sub-folders that include the documents they need.

  • Remember that when you share a file on a shared drive, it keeps its initial permissions (if it can't be copied, downloaded, or printed, it won't acquire these permissions after being on the shared drive).

  • Keep in mind that the shared drive default sharing restrictions override the document level sharing restrictions.

DON'Ts

  • Edit the file if the name says [Don’t Edit] or if it's a template.

  • Move files from their location without informing the creator of the file.

  • Give access to the file to someone outside your organization before asking your superior first.

  • Have too many teams using the same folder.


While it may require some effort to establish a robust information structure with a clearly defined system for your folder creation and naming convention, the productivity gain can be significant in both its impact on efficiency and employee experience. The key to maintaining a healthy information sharing system is to ensure the process remains rigorous and is diligently applied by one and all, perhaps under the watchful eye of a designated custodian who encourages these best practices, freeing up the rest of the team , whether hybrid, fully remote, or fully in-person, to dedicating their time and energy in developing creative solutions for your business and clients.