Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business | For any organisation, developing a strong records management programme is a problem.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business. It must be meticulously planned from beginning to end, just like the design of a new college campus or the revival of an old city centre.

Consistent, comprehensive, and well-maintained records are beneficial to all organisations, yet records management is rarely given priority status. Most organisations don’t devote enough effort to developing, finishing, updating, maintaining, preserving, or even properly purging or destroying their records, instead concentrating on “the next thing” that will move their business ahead.

People are notoriously motivated when they feel a sense of urgency to take action. Many of us are aware of the need to diet or eat healthfully, but we only start making changes when we suddenly realise that our clothes no longer fit. When we worry that we might not get into the college of our choice or that we might have to repeat a class, we study as we should.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Unfortunately, very few people act appropriately without encouragement from others. Records management has had to climb up the organisational priority list for many enterprises due to regulatory compliance and the associated fear of lawsuit. Below are some tips for creating a good policy, along with suggestions for technologies that will make implementation simpler.

The Need for a Records Management Policy: Communicating It

A well-planned records management policy and standardised records management procedures are essential components of a programme for managing documents that is successful. A clear policy assists record managers, as well as the agencies with whose regulations they must follow, to recognise when violations have happened and creates standards that tell personnel what to generate, manage, purge, and destroy.

But it’s crucial to remember that automation doesn’t take the place of a policy. Automation won’t help your situation if you’re still using paper records, and it won’t make the policy’s underlying flaws any better. Whether records are still on paper or stored electronically, compliance is always required. A solid policy establishes clear guidelines for records administration and aids in staff members continuously adhering to the rules of procedure.

Simply automating your records management programme frequently has the unintended consequence of automating the current chaos, according to Steve Weissman, Senior Analyst and Director of Marketing at Art Plus Technology. Companies run the danger of just running into difficulty more rapidly if they don’t establish a plan for the creation, administration, and deletion of data.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Despite managers’ best efforts to show compliance, the absence of a policy may more quickly show that they have not. For those organisations, this portends undesirable difficulty that would have been averted if a strong policy had been set up from the beginning.

Because it shows that a company has taken earnest attempts to assure compliance and apply internal controls, even the process of creating a policy can assist with legal compliance, particularly Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. 

The records manager should stress the significance of compliance and the unfavourable effects of failing to comply if your organisation has not yet felt the need to develop and convey a clear records management policy.

This can act as inspiration to carry out a strategy from which your business will gain on several levels. The policy will provide management with the instruments they need to efficiently manage one of a company’s most important assets: its total corporatized records.

Defining a Record and its Lifecycle in Review

In accordance with legal obligations or business transactions, records are defined by the ISO as “information made, received, and stored as proof and information by an organisation or person” (International Organisation of Standardisation). A record can take many different forms, including paper documents, emails, voicemails, faxes, images, and notes regarding the documents.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Important details, or metadata, regarding the record that it is accompanying should be present in every record. Who is the record’s creator? Where is it going to be kept? Who is permitted access to it? How long must it be kept in storage? When ought the record to be deleted from the records? When ought it to be thrown away or destroyed?

An organisation is typically concerned with managing an active document and its contents during the initial and shortest phase of the record cycle. This includes keeping track of who has accessed, viewed, annotated, or otherwise interacted with the information. Record storage (records that are temporarily or permanently dormant), controlled access, maintenance, purging, and disposal comprise the remaining stages of the lifespan.

Setting Up a Clear Path for Simple Retrieval for Records

Effective records classification and a storage system that makes it possible to quickly, easily, and securely retrieve information when needed are the first steps in records management.

It doesn’t matter what technology you choose to collect your data—OCR, ICR, barcodes, etc.—electronic storage of your documents, photos, and historical records may make records administration simpler. However, it only functions to its fullest extent if data is carefully and properly categorised.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

In the digital age, a well-defined indexing strategy takes into account the many groups of individuals and departments that need to find documents as well as the search terms they need to use. Your staff, auditors, and regulatory agencies will be better served and you can reallocate staff talents to more vital activities other than searching for records by taking the effort to develop a sound record classification or indexing scheme.

E-discovery has recently made it crucial for businesses to be able to supply any information pertinent to a problem during investigations and other regulatory response projects that call for specific data. 

The rules of civil process in particular, which were updated only in 2006, provide courts the authority to request data as evidence regardless of the expense to the businesses that are compelled to deliver it.

These rules apply to a variety of things, including emails, text files, data on PDAs and other devices, backup tapes, databases, videotapes, audio recordings, and more. Companies can prevent the life-threatening issues that can result from eDiscovery challenges by implementing a thorough and effective records management system with simple retrieval.

Businesses that have the technology to comply with these requirements and enable electronic searching of e-content are at a major advantage over those that do not. In a court of law, those who have put in place an effective system that makes it simple to conduct e-discovery, along with a clear policy, are unquestionably at an advantage.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Long-term, businesses should work toward developing a corporate file plan, which would have an unified hierarchical structure for all corporate data. This ambitious goal is challenging to fulfil, but it can be done more readily if done gradually. The groundwork for enterprise-wide success can be built by implementing record retention standards at the department level initially.

Establishing Clear Guidelines for Controlling and Auditing Access

Long before regulatory compliance became the rage, it was clear that access to papers throughout their active phase of their life cycle needed to be restricted. Many of the rules governing who should have access to documents in the past were based on organisational hierarchy, trust, and respect.

These requirements put organisations in danger in the modern world if access is not properly regulated and monitored. With HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley, the SEC, and other rules, a handshake at arm’s length and respect are no longer sufficient.

It’s crucial that the policy can be audited easily and effectively. Security breaches can and do happen, but they may be easily avoided with a digital solution that is set up to limit who is authorised to carry out particular operations. The system should be able to provide thorough audit reports, which is very crucial.

Good document management software can handle this issue if some parts of a form should be accessible to everyone but other parts need reading or annotation limits.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Reporting tools can offer the data required to show compliance with internal policies as well as external regulations if documents go through an automated workflow procedure throughout the active phase of the record lifecycle.

Upkeep of Records

Many of the issues associated with maintenance are eliminated once a records management policy is in place. It is simpler to control the many activities that surround a record throughout its lifecycle by creating a clear plan for storage, indexing, and access. There are many advantages if your company has automated workflow in addition to basic digital storage.

Changes to documents or record modifications to a policy or application can be set up to automatically initiate a routine process, transmit a paper with action instructions, generate personalised letters or calls depending on information kept inside a record, and much more.

While the cost savings and productivity gains should be sufficient to persuade any astute records manager to give this some careful thought, the reporting tools that support action monitoring and compliance maintenance make it a crucial factor..

Knowing When to Remove Records from the System: Record Retention

In order to lessen the amount of unnecessary information that staff members must look through in order to find relevant records, purging can be helpful. Most documents progressively lose their relevance to a company’s present operation over time. 

Record retention schedules direct the user to obliterate information that may no longer be necessary for a corporation from a legal perspective, just as the Statute of Limitations specifies the maximum amount of time that can pass before a lawsuit can be filed.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Purging appropriately maintains company data relevant and accessible and gets rid of what is no longer needed (as soon as it makes sense and is permitted by law). No longer are employees diverted by information that is irrelevant to their jobs. Purging encourages efficiency and makes information searches easier.

According to Vijay Magon, Technical Director for OITUK, a British partner of Optical Image Technology, “A crucial component of compliance is the timely removal of items in accordance with retention schedules. Companies must show that they have a system and policy in place that allows for the timely removal of the appropriate items.

Technology greatly facilitates the monitoring and enforcement of these regulations and offers a transparent audit trail of all access and activity. Companies put themselves at significant and unneeded risk without this proof.”

Solutions to the Problems of Document and Record Management

A complete record management solution consists of several different parts. A number of potent technologies can significantly simplify managing the document and record life cycle once a sound policy has been developed.

A complete solution should include automated workflow (during the business lifetime of a document), email management, a hierarchical storage management product (to handle document retention and audits), and Web services. The following describes the function of each element in a records management programme.

Automated Workflow’s Place in the Record Life Cycle

The secret to successfully managing, monitoring, and auditing each step in every business process connected to a document or record is digital workflow. The necessity for a record manager to track document access and related activities is made easier by automated workflow.

A business may be required to provide access to the documents or to reveal who saw, modified, or forwarded a document or took any other connected activity in response to a court order. This procedure is made faster, simpler, significantly less time-consuming, and less expensively by an automated workflow product with powerful reporting tools.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Electronic workflow can be set up to demand the consistency and thoroughness that a recordkeeping department needs, and it can be equipped with powerful reporting tools to demonstrate that the system and its users are abiding by the standards and regulations outlined in the policy manual.

Leading electronic workflow technologies available today can seamlessly interact with a variety of line-of-business software programmes. This increases the value of the data held in such apps and makes it possible for data to be appropriately shared across the enterprise in accordance with the pre-established norms of the business.

Digital workflow significantly increases efficiency by pushing the appropriate documents and data to the appropriate stakeholders for quick action. A policy or application-related database update may automatically issue an action alert, as well as produce the necessary call or letter. All transactions may be tracked and analysed using workflow reporting tools in ways that are convenient for the organisation and make it easier to comply with auditor requirements.

These same solutions give managers access to productivity analyses, transparent audit trails, and data that enables ongoing process quality improvement involving a company’s papers. The importance of digital workflow in promoting compliance and increasing organisational effectiveness across the business lifecycle cannot be emphasised.

An automated workflow solution supplier should offer a product with options for adjusting processes to the demands of the company. tools for reporting and auditing compliance, tracking tools that illustrate where documents are in a process.

To get the most out of your investment, the software should be scalable to grow with your firm and interface with other lines of business software. In order to design, install, and maybe modify the system to meet their changing needs, organisations with limited IT employees and resources should inquire with their vendor about the availability of professional services.

Efficiencies and Compliance-Promoting Email Management Tools

Because they contain information pertaining to a company’s operations, emails are comparable to other corporate records.

Emails from most businesses contain useful business information as well as details about how decisions were made. According to industry figures, emails account for 60 to 70 percent, often even more, of corporate communications.

Making Records Management Policies That Are Right For Your Business

Since emails frequently store crucial corporate information and communications, effective management of email messages is a crucial component of proper records administration. No matter where it comes from or how it is presented, a record is a record, according to Steve Weissman.

There is content, and it is a record, whether the information is kept in a voicemail, fax, paper, image, or email. Companies would be sensible to manage all records types completely and effectively.” Email communications should be kept in the company repository so that their content, including the header information about the email’s transmission and its metadata, may be easily searched. As a step toward compliance, many businesses now keep their emails in a corporate repository.

The auditors will anticipate that data will be used to conclusively demonstrate facts in cases where a court of law requests evidence that emails were sent or received on a specific subject or within a given time range. The expense of delivering the data an auditor needs may not matter to the regulating body, but it can be fatal for a corporation when looking for or complying with the requirements is challenging.

Although it can be difficult to track down specific email forwarders outside of your company’s primary email recipients, if there are any doubts, your business must be able to demonstrate what was sent and to whom.

The tracking of such email data becomes a labour-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive operation without a searchable system. Setting up clear and consistent criteria for email auto-archiving encourages higher efficiency, fewer mistakes, and simpler compliance.

A provider of email management solutions ought to offer powerful search options that facilitate effective handling of this crucial data. To facilitate simple integration with other current and emerging technologies, the software should be able to simultaneously monitor email on several servers and run on any platform.

Scalability is important so that the solution may expand along with your business. Record managers may manage incoming emails more easily by incorporating blacklist and whitelist options, which also has the added benefit of vastly increasing productivity.

Tools for Hierarchical Storage Management to Automate Audits and Retention

In order to administer a document and information repository, a powerful hierarchical storage management product eliminates the need for human intervention. As a result, the system is more effective and less prone to mistakes. Automated retention schedules with built-in alarms for when a record needs to be deleted are available. Based on the rules you provide, important data can be routinely and automatically backed up.

A hierarchical storage management system takes care of the document-centred requirements outlined in regulations and gets rid of the need for human oversight to guarantee compliance. It contains data migration, move and purge requirements, audit trails, retention schedules, and a variety of additional records management capabilities. Within pre-established rules that specify the hierarchy of data relevance, it should permit automated and regular backups of the data.

Your organisation will be equipped with a solution that not only tackles regulatory difficulties but also offers the tools to strengthen content control, lower risks, and guarantee document integrity when used in conjunction with other products in an integrated document management suite.

Interoperability is ensured by web services.

Web services have recently become more and more important in the management of records. Interoperability of systems is essential because papers and records pertaining to those documents are frequently stored in and processed by various lines of business applications. The systems may communicate with one another thanks to web services, guaranteeing that data stored in many applications can be retrieved and centralised for simple reporting and analysis.

They let businesses use a variety of technologies within their accustomed applications. Behind the scenes, data may be taken from those applications, and as a bonus, specialised activities can be carried out by integrating Web services into workflow to push work to people who require it.

Efficiency is greatly increased by setting up the system to automatically extract data or carry out whatever is required in the background. Additionally, the ability to gather emails from many sources and provide information about the emails required for analysis and audits greatly simplifies compliance.


The practice of managing records never ends. A clear policy and efficient tools that work together are beneficial, both inside each department that manages records and even throughout the entire organisation. Before you start, think about your current policies and fix any flaws or contradictions to ensure that you fully comprehend your requirements before selecting a solution provider.

Make sure you take into account a workflow-driven document management solution when evaluating vendors to be a part of a comprehensive records management solution. This will ensure seamless integration and make it simpler for you to manage the business lifecycle of your documents while they are still in use.

Don’t wait for a crisis to make you feel compelled to start a robust records management programme. Your firm should be able to manage records successfully and experience significant productivity savings with a sound plan in place and solutions that make the most of workflow, reporting, storage management, email management, and Web services interoperability. More significantly, you must be able to properly police your records so that the real police are not required to do so.


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