Friday, January 10, 2014

SOP Friday: Document Pouches

This article is very practical in nature and geared toward the service delivery folks. It is a great procedure for client machines as well as your internal operations.

One of the best decisions I ever made in my business was to buy a number of the "pocket" file folders to store information about hardware and software. We use them to store all the information for a specific purchase. It is easy to set up a new folder when you are setting up a new computer.

It is a major pain in the neck and waste of time if you don't do this!

Let's start with an example. I recently bought a new video camera. The first thing I did was to grab one of these pouches and label it. Into the pouch goes the receipt, the warranty information, unused cables, and all the little paperwork you get with a new purchase. The folder is labeled and dated.

In this case, the instruction manual did not go in the pouch because I wanted to read it. Once that was accomplished, in it went.

I recommend that you adopt this policy for all machines you touch or manage internally and at each of your clients. There are many good reasons for this.

First, this is an easy way to keep all the information for that machine in one place. This includes add-ons such as documentation and warranty information for DVDRWs, sound cards, video cards, etc.

Second, this is a great place to make sure you keep track of all the stuff while you're building a machine.

Third, down the road when you want to know where you can find the factory re-installation discs, they are easy to find.

Fourth, if there's some kind of warranty issue, or software needs to be re-installed, you've got all the information in one place.

Fifth, in case of a fire, flood, or theft, you've got the information you need for an insurance claim.

Sixth, when it's time to send the machine to recycling, you can just send this pouch along with it. If you've been diligent at keeping up with this process, then everything related to that machine is in the pouch.

This collection of paperwork and software - plus the Machine Spec Sheet - will make for much faster service when needed.

The alternative is all too familiar to us: There's a junk drawer with unorganized discs and paperwork. It contains video and network drivers for all kinds of machines - most of which you don't own any more. And there are some missing because they were put in another drawer or not filed at all.

When I started my business, building machines yourself was a lot more common. So the most common place for "documentation" was the box that had shipped with the motherboard for the server. It was a handy size, held lots of paperwork, and was large enough for stray jumper wires and bits of hardware. But even those were normally out of date, included drivers and paperwork for machines that no longer existed, and had important software missing. Normally, the missing software was the thing you were actually looking for.

With the pouch system, you have one pouch for each machine and one pouch for important software packages. For example, if you have Microsoft Open licenses, you'll want to keep a good set of DVDs in the pouch along with the license certificates, license keys, etc. The same is true for Line of Business applications, multi-user QuickBooks or Business Works programs, etc.

Yes, a lot of this information is also electronic and is also in your PSA or on your company SharePoint site. But ALL of it should be in this pouch.

At the "end of life" for a given machine, you get rid of this file. That way, your filing system contains all the important files and software for everything you own, and none of the old files for equipment you no longer own.

You should dedicate a file file drawer (or several) to these folders so that you can always find them quickly. Some clients put this information into paper file boxes and keep them on shelves next to the server. So you might have one file box for servers and network equipment and additional boxes for desktops and laptops.

Note that I mentioned network equipment. You will create files for routers, switches, firewalls, scanners, printers, label makers, shipping scales, etc. Everything that you touch that has warranty information, drivers, or software needs to be filed in a pouch.

The answer to the question "Where is the information on this ...?" should always be: In a pouch, where it belongs.

Everyone on your staff needs to get in the habit of making these file pouches with every new computer sale, every server build, every monitor delivery, and so forth. Just do it. 100% is easy to achieve. Make sure the creation of the pouch is part of the New PC Checklist.

And it's not a bad habit for your home equipment either.

The Big Bonus: This kind of standard operating procedure makes you look really good to your clients. Think about how many new clients you've taken on that had a simple system like this. It adds instant value and demonstrates that you know what you're doing. You do this a lot - and you've got a process for making easy easy.

Comments welcome.

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About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at

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Next week's topic: Information Sharing


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  1. Hmmm... I concur with the basic philosophy but in the paperless age I struggle with keeping 'paper' files. It seems to me that most items that ship w/hardware & software these days are useless and will never again be referenced or utilized so why bother keep it? When there are physical items worthy of keeping, I'll place them in a labeled zip-loc bag, and other digital items such as Microsoft Open Licenses, are stored in an appropriate folder in our electronic filing system.

  2. Well, the equipment we buy always seems to have a few pieces of paper plus recovery DVDs, and the occasional stray cable. I'm not going to pay someone to scan that stuff.


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