Personal Information and Document Management at Home - Topline findings from Exploratory Research
Updated: Mar 13
The purpose of this research was to understand the flow of purposeful personal information and documents to people with regards to their home lives, such as bills, receipts, income statements, renewals, travel documents, and anything else that people received. The research sought to learn how the items arrived (electronically or paper), what people did with those, and how the items were (or were not) retained.
The interviews were conducted by means of a virtual guided tour – an arrangement was made to call the participants by means of a Facebook Messenger video call. The guided tour interview is an established technique for studying how people manage information and documents in the workplace – but this research appears to one of the first academic studies using this technique for this purpose.
In total, 22 interviews were conducted amongst 30 participants – including eight couples. Participants talked about 489 different items - an average of 16.3 items for each person.
Using the data collected, the following schema was created of every possible item flow:
As complex as this diagram appears, there are some distinct patterns. Items arrive in a mixture of hardcopy and electronic format. For those items managed electronically, there are, broadly speaking, three ways that people approach these:
· Items are moved to another format, such as a file on a computer;
· Items are sorted into folders within the user’s email; and
· Items are left in the email inbox permanently.
However every participant described some exceptions to their standard practices – perhaps in order to be able to re-find certain items, to share them with family or an accountant, or because they believed that some documents were best retained in hardcopy.
The variety of patterns of personal information and document management can be distilled down to this core pattern:
The next step in this research will be to identify points for improvement, and risk factors associated with this will be done in the format of a short survey. After that, a software application will be developed and tested, with the intent of providing and easy, robust and useful way of managing personal records management in the future.