Whether your organization still stores and generates paper records, has gone digital, or straddles both sides of the fence, electronic document and records management systems protect your valuable information. However, with the advancement of document management technology and digitization, there are always opportunities to improve your records management process. Here we share the five best records and information management techniques using records management best practices.
1. Formalize Your Records Management Policy
It’s one thing to have records management processes and another to formalize that process into a records management policy. A policy is a written document to establish, guide, and train employees on your records management process. It ensures everyone adheres to proven, effective records management techniques to maximize efficiency and streamline document workflows. As a result, you maximize your corporate records' informative value and authenticity while ensuring everyone is using the same version for all types of records.
Nothing is more critical to records management than implementing and adhering to a records management policy. Your records management policies and procedures provide a roadmap for handling records, including how they are created, stored, accessed, archived, and destroyed. Your approach is specific to your organization’s essential records, providing guidelines ensuring records are complete, accurate, and secure. Your policy also outlines the following:
- Who and/or what departments are ultimately responsible for effective records management
- Who in the organization has access to what types of records
- Compliance specific to your industry or under various government laws and regulations
- Training procedures when onboarding new staff members
- Storage and retrieval
- Archiving retention periods and records destruction regulations
- Records compliance auditing procedures
Formalizing your policy takes time and research to ensure all bases are covered. However, once in place, your policy is the driving force behind your records management techniques.
2. Research and Implement Effective Records Management Solutions
A solid and effective records management plan uses proven records management solutions. For example, suppose you’re still paper-based or have digital and physical records. In that case, you’ll need a solution that makes it easier to scan physical records so all documents are in the same digital format. On the other hand, if you use strictly digital records, you’ll need a secure, easy-to-access digital document storage solution.
Your records management technique is only as effective as your chosen document management software. So, what should you look for in an effective records management solution? Several things:
- Role-based records access
- Usage logs to improve accountability
- Enhanced collaboration capabilities
- Exceptional indexing leveraging meta tags to make records searchable via cross-referencing
- Mobile access from different devices
- Easy-to-read formats
- User-friendly dashboard and interface
- Easy integration with existing software such as Microsoft Office applications, SharePoint solutions, etc.
- Integration with your scanning system to make it easy to digitize paper documents such as invoices, forms, etc.
- Scalability and flexibility to grow and change with your organization
- Audit trails
- Document classification for compliance purposes
- Life cycles and retention periods
- Version control
It’s a lot to swallow, but a records management program is designed to cover all these functions and more.
3. Create an Automated Retention Schedule
Records retention schedules help minimize the storage space required by keeping your team on track for record destruction. Your retention schedule is based on document type and regulations, providing an ongoing record of document onboarding and scheduled end-of-use dates.
As an essential element of your records storage and management policy, your retention schedule is a dynamic document covering several document types based on government regulations (provincial and federal), industry guidelines, departments (such as HR and accounting), public records, stockholders, authority, and more.
The benefits of an automated retention schedule include the following:
- Your team always knows what records can be destroyed and when
- You free up physical and digital storage space to reduce storage costs
- You make record searches easier with fewer files
- You remain compliant with all applicable regulations
Simply put, an automated retention schedule minimizes the number of records you manage while maximizing efficiency for storage space
4. Maximize Accessibility While Minimizing Security Risks
Records management should facilitate quick records access without increasing the risk of security breaches. Organizations rely on information more than ever before, including your team and outside stakeholders, such as patients/customers, vendors, suppliers, and more. Therefore, your records management system should have secure sharing capabilities so authorized people can access information effortlessly.
You improve searchability using logical terms by incorporating multiple search criteria and indexing parameters. Having records available via the cloud also makes sharing records easier for internal or external players. Access is a huge consideration with remote workforces spread across different locations, working on the road, from home offices, or other branches. Also, vendors, suppliers, and customers require remote access to their records.
With the right software, you can limit what records are shared, authorize certain people to see specific records, and make it easy to access records using any device from any location. Accessibility ensures you:
- Create a comprehensive record classification scheme
- Organize digital records in the proper directories
- Implement an authorization process that gives access to the right individuals
- Access additional materials like emails and even instant messages
- Remain compliant with General Data Protection Regulation
Taking the time to develop secure, well-determined search criteria today saves time and effort in the long run.
5. Adopt Effective Document Indexing Techniques
Indexing records uses effective metadata naming practices when creating, storing, and searching for data. The naming criteria are customized to suit your organization using logical terms and naming conventions. Document indexing adopts the following processes:
- Implementing a streamlined document indexing system to create a logical organization for records and documents
- Using a mandatory metadata naming convention used to create files and develop a streamlined records management structure to organize files
- Deploying a document management software that streamlines the saving and searching process
Adapting records management best practices creates a more productive environment leading to time and cost-saving opportunities. To learn more about the best records management techniques for your company, speak with the experts at MES about opportunities to improve your document management/ retention plan.