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A file, no matter what form it takes, is simply a collection of data that can be accessed or recovered. Files are normally saved in automated and non-automated versions.
By “non-automated” files, we means those which have to be organized and classified by people, without the aid of computers.
Non-automated files tend to have exponential growth, which turns into big physical spaces being taken up and where information is at the mercy of physical elements, like fire, or simply the passing of time, which means that documents are at risk of deteriorating and even being lost. That's why lots of companies start digitization or imaging projects.
Technological advances have given people and businesses electronic files, which can contain the same information as a paper file, except that the information is codified in the language understood by computers.
These automated files were created to solve two serious problems presented by paper files: occupation of physical space and the deterioration of documentation. Businesses and governments could store all the documentation they had in files in their computers. That said, as time went on, this type of traditional automatic file has revealed other difficulties. With enormous volumes of documentation, finding one particular document becomes a difficult task that takes up a lot of time. Additionally, traditional electronic systems don’t give enough backing to the information contained in computers, which means that many businesses have lost documentation because of failures in the hard disks of their computers.
This is simply the way in which collections of files are called, organized and stored, in order to be opened later. Normally, within computers, files are organized in hierarchical structures (such as trees) by the user.
The format is the physical structure that a document contains. A document can be contained on a piece of paper, but it can also be in a series of bits which can only be accessed by using a computer. We can use the word “support”, as well, in place of “format”. That way, we can talk of “paper format” or “electronic support”.
We can define a document flow as the process which a document is normally submitted to, once it’s been received (or generated) inside a business. For example, a sales department might have a document called “Sales Proposal” might initiate another document called “Order,” which, in turn, causes the creation of “Invoice.” It can also refer to the process that a document goes through – the hands it passes through once it’s been created or generated. This concept is strongly connected to the concept of Work Flows.
Tasks and documents are usually closely related, either because a document helps to create a task, or because a document is, in and of itself, the support or the proof that a certain task has been carried out. Tasks also form partof the processes that have specific aims. Work flows seek to automate these business processes in which the documents, tasks and information move from one person in a team to the next, in order to complete a specific action. To automate these processes, clear rules which avoid confusion should be established, and the rules should also provide clarity regarding responsibilities and procederes.