The statement “Have a look in the data room, it’s all in there” can bring a cold sweat to many an engineer undertaking a due diligence or updating a study from a previous consultant. How many of you, during a due diligence, recall being given FTP access to a data room that is full of highly disorganized folders and sub-folders, files with cryptic names, different updates of the same file in different folders? It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. It can be difficult to determine which files are actually important and still relevant today and which files have been simply dumped into the room. There is nothing worse than spending a day reviewing an Excel model only to find out that wasn’t the latest version and a different un-related folder has the correct file.
Data rooms are generally created for due diligence exercises or during an advance engineering stage (i.e. detailed engineering). Regardless of the purpose, it is helpful for all involved in the study to have some type of a document control person who understands what is in the data room, what is important, and what is non-essential.
Large companies or large projects may often have an dedicated document control person to manage the data room. However smaller companies simply in a due diligence phase may tend to dump all the electronic files they have into the dataroom, sort them into different folders hopefully, but it’s still up to the reviewer to dig through the files to find what they need. This can be a time consuming task, costing the client money in wasted time. Therefore organization of the data room is key.
Comprehensive searchable document management systems such as Aconex, SharePoint, and others are available, but they can be pricey and do require a team mindset to organize and catalogue the information put into them. However a properly implemented system like these can make it easier to search for files, keywords, and the latest versions of files. “Properly implemented” means that the entire team takes the time to put the information in and ensure it is properly tagged. However even these systems can become repositories for hundreds or thousands of files.
As an aside; when using a cloud-based dataroom or FTP site, try to select one that allows bulk downloading of documents rather than only allowing one file at a time.
My bottom line is that data room management is important although I don’t know if there is any single magic solution. Small mining companies may have tight budgets and a small management team so organizing data properly isn’t high on their priority list. I suggest to anyone setting up a data room, please take the time to properly set up the folder structure, develop a single bibliography of what files are in there, and assign a person to be familiar with the general contents of the data room. Also don’t just dump in everything like unnecessary data or working files that may not actually be required by anyone.