5 Ways to Combat File Sprawl and Increase Productivity

By 2024, 84% of all companies will have a hybrid work environment, with most employees working remotely at least part of the time. An increasingly distributed workforce leads to a wide range of workplace challenges, but one of the big ones is the proliferation of file sprawl.

Marketing agencies or corporate marketing departments are often some of the worst offenders, especially with the explosion of digital marketing that has largely taken over traditional campaign channels. The digital environment is potent for marketers, but it also means more data, files, channels, and tools for your teams to stay on top of.

When all those bits and pieces are created, they have to be stored somewhere. And as creatives, we aren’t always the best when it comes to governing the mass amounts of files we create.

Fortunately, you can reign in the chaos by implementing a few strategies to track, organize, and manage your team’s files. Within content creation teams specifically, having a good content operations platform at your fingertips simplifies, centralizes, and automates the process.

What Is File Sprawl?

In data-driven marketing, it’s common to accumulate so many files that you have trouble storing and organizing them, particularly when you work with numerous devices and programs that require data.

Another component of sprawl is file and storage duplication, potentially leading to multiple file versions. You may also have trouble with team members not being able to access the information they need when they need it, which can hurt your company’s marketing efforts.

Why Is Sprawling Data a Problem?

Sprawl is becoming a bigger problem for companies of all types. In an Independent Directors Council study with IT leaders, over 80% of respondents said that data sprawl is one of the most pressing concerns they’re currently facing.

New Team Member Troubles

Onboarding new team members often exacerbates file sprawl, as they work to familiarize themselves with all the tools and resources your agency uses. Data excess and a lack of structure make it difficult for new employees to learn the system, which can negatively impact productivity.

Team Disconnect

Sprawl can cause a disconnect between different teams, impairing collaboration between your agency’s departments. When people don’t know where a file is coming from, who generated it, or what its purpose is, it can be more challenging to leverage that file to drive results.

Security Vulnerability

In addition to being inefficient and confusing, sprawl can also be dangerous for your agency. If you have trouble keeping your files organized and secure, they can be more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

How Can You Manage Your Files?

A data governance system can help you control the flow of data through your agency, as well as the processes and systems that you use to create that data. When your team knows where they can find each file and how to access it, they’ll have more time to generate results.

Team Training

Combating file sprawl is a team effort. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By educating your team members about excessive files and how to manage them, you can avoid problems down the line.

You can host meetings where you discuss the various effects of sprawl and how to combat them. You can also provide training materials that your team members can refer to when they’re working. Group seminars, one-on-one meetings, and social media are good ways to share best practices.

File Reviews

Your team should know how to govern the lifecycle of your marketing data. This includes when they store, process, and use a file. Everyone should take the time to review their data regularly and determine if they should modify or delete it. You should also implement a data retention policy that lays out how long your agency should store data.

Five steps of data lifecycle management to help combat file sprawl.

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How Can Automation Help?

Another way to handle file sprawl is to automate your data processes. When you have to repeat the same tasks over and over again, it can be inefficient and time-consuming.

For example, if you manually track your social media campaigns, you’ll have to log in to each social network and enter the data that you’ve gathered. This can be particularly challenging if you’re tracking a large number of campaigns.

To combat the inefficiency of these repetitive tasks, use a content and project management platform to automate as many of your data processes as possible.

Effective automation reduces redundancy in marketing campaigns while still providing tracking and analysis data. You can also create custom workflows to automate certain tasks, such as sharing files between your marketing tools and team members.

Another efficient solution is to employ content management software that automatically deletes an older version of a file when someone creates a new one.

How Can You Secure Your Data?

File sprawl can compromise your data, as it often leads to unsecured sharing and storage on unprotected or under-protected devices. The right digital asset management platform incorporates security measures into the system, giving you the protection you need for secure file sharing and storing.

You should regularly check your data for abnormalities so you can identify potential threats. DivvyHQ keeps track of the entire lifecycle of all data in the system. You always know who had their hands on the data, what they did, and when they did it.

Offline, you can store backup versions of your content assets. Keep your data in a safe location, such as a physical server, away from prying eyes.

Unstructured Data

Spiceworks reports that on a global scale, 90% of data is becoming unstructured. Unstructured data is especially common when it comes to social media content. It can be hard to store these files safely since computers are unable to read them properly.

Fortunately, DivvyHQ’s platform allows you to store, access, and manage unstructured data securely. This way, you’ll be able to keep your files secure while still accessing the information you need.

Different types of unstructured data that can lead to file sprawl.

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Don’t Let File Sprawl Hold You Back

File sprawl can be challenging to deal with and take time away from your marketing efforts if you don’t have the right tools. DivvyHQ will make it easier for your team to focus on content marketing strategies and collaboration. With a more streamlined process, excessive data shouldn’t get in the way. Request a demo to learn more about how we can help you clean up (and avoid) the sprawl.