Learn why records management is crucial to the success of your business, and then get started with these three simple steps
Records management is a crucial element of a successful enterprise, regardless of industry. Still, many businesses fail to recognize its importance.
Also referred to as records information management, records management is the process of supervising and administering paper and digital records. This process continues throughout the entire records management life cycle, which spans the production, receipt, maintenance, use, and disposal of information.
The records that are being managed will vary from industry to industry, but can include:
These records should be organized according to a classification system that allows for easy access, either on- or off-site or, better yet, digitally in the cloud. However, the records are maintained, the primary objective of records management is to keep necessary information organized and at the ready, both for efficient internal operations and in case of a compliance audit.
Reduce Clutter and Storage Costs
Part of proper records management involves disposing of information that has expired, meaning that it’s no longer useful or necessary.
Even if you do not work for a government agency, though, you still need to be on top of your records management. For example, the IRS recommends that businesses keep tax records for seven years, as they may be necessary in certain circumstances. Bank account and credit card statements, cancelled checks, and HR records also have a shelf life of seven years, with employment tax records coming in at four years.
Organizations that fail to get rid of unnecessary documents face a never-ending accumulation of information, which has to live somewhere. This can mean a growing number of file cabinets, adding to both office clutter and storage costs.
Proper record disposal will help with part of this problem by ensuring that you only maintain the records that you really need. Digitizing takes you the rest of the way by freeing up invaluable office space.
Access Information Quickly and Easily
Nothing eats into productivity more than having to search for information or documents. Yet people spend about a week searching for lost papers and items every year.
Records management aims to prevent this issue first by eliminating unnecessary documents, so that you have less to sort through, and also by indexing and organizing the records that are here to stay. Staff should be able to access the information they need quickly, reducing search times that cut into productivity and distract from the real work at hand.
Scanning documents into a digital document management system increases efficiency even further, allowing you to access, share, and update data remotely with just a few clicks.
Adhere to Regulatory Compliance
As mentioned above, local governments require that certain industries maintain certain types of records for a specific amount of time, as outlined in their records retention schedules. Federal laws and regulations such as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) make proper records management even more crucial.
Organizations that fail to adhere to these regulations can face costly financial penalties or even legal actions. Strict records management is the only way to ensure regulatory compliance and avoid these potentially crippling consequences.
Protect Important Information
Whether or not your organization is subject to compliance regulations, protecting important company assets and confidential information is essential to your ability to function in the long term. Theft, natural disasters, human error, and deteriorating document quality are all threats to the integrity of your records.
While some companies choose to minimize these threats by storing paper documents in a protected off-site storage facility, the best and only way to prevent data loss is to go paperless by storing records in the cloud. Many digital records management systems even allow you to set specific restrictions, so that only authorized staff can access or update sensitive documents.
Save Money and Time
Records management takes a lot of time and money, requiring storage space, printing materials, and staff to file and maintain documents. Of course, the time and money necessary only increase when records management isn’t handled well, and staff must search for or even replace lost records.
A digital records management system saves you these expenses by eliminating the resources associated with printing, organizing, storing, and maintaining documents. The increased efficiency that comes with such a system only further reduces costs.
Control Record Growth
The process of implementing records management after having neglected it may require a lot of upfront work, depending on the degree of disorder and how long records have been accumulating for. However, once you have a plan for records management in place, you should have no trouble keeping your documents in check.
Whenever a new record is created, you should have the necessary knowledge or resources at hand to decide whether it needs to be maintained. If it doesn’t, you can dispose of it properly to avoid unnecessarily growing your records; if it does, you have a system in place to organize it logically, ensuring easy future access.
Boost Employee Motivation
If employees are constantly faced with disorganized or lost records that slow or even block their workflows, they will quickly become frustrated. Energy that should go toward work instead goes toward solving problems that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Though not quantifiable, this poor working environment will certainly affect employee motivation.
On the other hand, employees who can finish work efficiently without any blockages will feel empowered by their accomplishments and eager to keep going. The difference between these two situations lies in effective records management.
1. Monitor Federal Regulations and Document Retention Schedules
Your organization should be aware of any and all federal regulations that apply to your work. Monitor them regularly to ensure that you remain compliant with any updates that are made.
Local governments may also issue updates to their document retention schedules, so check your state’s schedules frequently.
If none of these policies apply to your business, now is the time to do some research, establish best practices for different document types, and make a plan.
2. Discard Expired Documents
Once you’re aware of any regulations or best practices that you need to follow, your first step is to dispose of unnecessary documents. Keep in mind that the government regulates how certain kinds of records are discarded. For example, after the established retention period, Washington State requires that public hospitals destroy diagnostic images, but that they transfer maternity registers to the Washington State Archives for further appraisal.
Disposing of the records that you don’t need will make organizing what’s left over that much easier.
3. Digitize Everything
While maintaining an effective records management system on-site or in off-site storage is possible, digitizing records is becoming the norm — and for good reason. Storing records in the cloud allows your organization to:
The challenge, then, isn’t deciding how to move forward with records management so much as deciding what technology to use to do so.
The Alaris IN2 Ecosystem is particularly suitable for this task, with a variety of scanners and software solutions to make implementing and maintaining records management easy. Alaris features that directly benefit records management include:
Whether you’re opening a new business or are taking the initiative with your current organization, now is the time to get your records in order. Visit our site or contact us directly to learn more about how the Alaris IN2 Ecosystem can help improve records management!