What Is Indexing And Why Is It Important?

Indexing is a vital part of any business’ document management process and when done correctly can make the storage and location of important information much simpler and easier to navigate. Indexing utilises references such as place names, personal names, organisations and subjects, to create access points and collections that can easily be cross referenced and pinpointed to locate relevant documents without having to search through thousands of files.

Indexing first started with paper documents and archives where cards would be hand-written and relevant documents stored within these sections or folders. However, in an online environment these ‘access points’ can be attributed to files individually, so that when searched for they are automatically presented to the enquirer.

Although many systems now have free text search capabilities there is still a valid need for indexing for a number of reasons. Firstly, indexing offers a much more reliable and consistent way of attributing information to documents and can help to draw collections together that would otherwise seem unconnected. This is because the indexer can carefully consider the significant content of each document and how it may be used in the future and for what purposes.

For example, the name of a document may not accurately represent the information contained within it. An advanced search then could reveal further information located within that document that a free text search would miss or bring up out of context.

Similarly, a collection of documents may revolve around a topic but this topic may not necessarily occur as a term in any of the documents. Therefore, allocating an index to each of the documents to draw them together under a common topic would prove to be more useful than relying on a free text search.

Another value of indexing is the fact that document managers are able to account for variations in spelling. Sometimes place or business names may change and extra information can be added to a documents index to reflect this, ensuring that the document is still brought forward in relevant searches.

In addition, a greater level of context can be attributed to documents when they are properly indexed. Single search terms can often be ambiguous when taken out of context and as a result documents that are unrelated are brought up in free text searches-the ability to add further context takes away this ambiguity. For example, when a search is conducted just using the place name ‘Birmingham’ this could potentially apply to both the city in the United Kingdom and the city in Alabama, USA. However, if the documents are correctly indexed with the city name and the country name then a more thorough, in-depth search can be performed.

Have you tried indexing as part of your document management strategy? Tell us if you found it to be an improvement by tweeting us @BoxItCentral!

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