single point failures

Overcoming A Single Point of Failure

Have you ever said to yourself:  “If I left the company I work for now, they would be in bad shape. They wouldn’t know what to do and where to find what.”  Or, perhaps worse yet, have you said to yourself:  “If so-and-so left my company, I wouldn’t know what to do or where to pick up where s/he left off.”  

This exposure to the loss of a single employee or storage solution can be called a “single point of failure.” And, it is often a reality for small businesses that generally lack the luxury of breadth in administrative roles.  Many business owners have allowed their functional area leads to develop lucrative processes, procedures, and forms to suit their individual work styles.  But, they have failed to effectively capture these processes and documents to ensure collaboration and continuity.

Where are your company’s documents and processes?

Recently, I worked with a client to set up a system to overcome this challenge.  The client understood the need for consolidating and organizing the company library of documents.  And, they were willing to invest a little time upfront for better operational security long term.  Before our work together, the client had documents in many places.  Some employees used a Google Drive and others used Dropbox.  Some kept their most important documents on USB sticks.  Others utilized storage on their desktop or laptop.  Clearly, there was more than one single point of failure. Sound familiar?

Consider, what if a USB stick became corrupted?  If a colleague didn’t have access to another employee’s Google Drive, would you have to recreate the form? What if an employee quit and cleaned up their files before exiting?  What if someone thought they were using the most up-to-date form but the most recent version was actually on someone’s hard drive? There was certainly some exposure for my client.  And so, together, the client and I set out to solve for these undesirable scenarios before they could become a reality.

Setup your document storage to avoid a single point of failure.

Of course, the process of actually gathering the forms, processes, and documents required input from both director-level and front-line employees within the organization. But, having set out clear objectives and explaining the benefits of the final product, we had the buy-in we needed.  (Hello, what you need, when you need it, with it being the most up-to-date version.)  The team was ready to eliminate any single point of failure.

First, before we began collecting our data, we created a template to use for job descriptions, procedures, forms, etc.  This was done to garner a uniform organization and appearance of the information the employees were gathering.  Doing this, we eliminated the step of getting all the data into a similar look and feel.

Next, as the captured processes, various forms and documents came in, we crafted an index of forms, processes, contracts, etc. This would be our reference list of what, where and when. (Think date last revised.)  For this particular client, it made sense to have one index for procedures. Another for forms, and a third for documents.   As you look at your business and the data your team brings to the table, you’ll begin to see a natural breakdown for your particular business.

By way of example, below is a fictitious forms index. “F” under the Number column stands for “form.” And, “P” under the Governing Document column stands for “procedure.”


Form Number Rev or Issue No. Governing Document # Governing Document Title Storage Location Comments
Trade Show Participant Feedback Form F1000 3/10/17 P1003 Trade Show 101 Evernote – Trade Shows Updated annually at the end of the year
Travel and Expense Form F1001 3/18/17 P1000 Human Resources Evernote – HR Documents Need to update once new travel software is in place
Weekly Report Form F1002 4/2/17 P1009 Business Review Resources Evernote – Business Reviews
Exit Interview Form F1003 5/25/17 P1000 Human Resources Evernote – HR Documents Legal to review annually

Furthermore, at the front of each form, process or document we included a template, or basically a simple legend.  This captured a date, issue number, reason for the documented change and included the approving party.  By way of example, I share a fictional employee onboarding process legend here.


03/22/2016 Draft Initial Draft
03/29/2016 Issue 1 Minor Edits and Added Review of Breakroom Supplies Director Sally Smart
04/04/2016 Issue 2 Added Updated Travel Profile Tom Traveller
06/10/2016 Issue 3 Revised First Review Timeline Molly Manager

Are your wheels turning about how to apply this to your business?  The key here is to keep your documents up to date with the changes in your company procedures.  The index helps you keep everyone on the same page.  So, even if Susie in Sales has edited a document you can always find the most current.  Evernote is the perfect storage place for all your forms, documents and procedures.  As you update them, Evernote will update the version in your notes.  This prevents multiple copies and revisions across the company.   I With this information, you’ll have what you need to securely document and index business procedures, forms and more in order to safeguard against a single point of failure in your business.

Sara Genrich is an Organization and Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop.  She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.

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