Guest Contributor

6 Principles for Improved Records Management

By | Elaine Bennett | Editor in Chief, Bizzmark Blog

Record management can be a daunting part of everyday operations for many businesses. From paper documents to digital data, records can quickly pile up and it can be easy to lose control over it if you’re not managing your records properly.

Good record management practices not only help your business sail smoothly through day-to-day operations, but they are also necessary in order to remain compliant.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed many high-profile examples of businesses not handling their records properly and being held accountable for it. According to Statista, 164.68 million records were exposed in 2019. It’s no surprise that, in this climate, the legislation is tightening and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to keep up.

However, non-compliance is not an option. Besides being a PR nightmare and seriously damaging your reputation and relationship with your customers, non-compliance can result in huge financial losses or even some more serious punitive measures.

Making record management the intrinsic part of your day to day operations and making sure that you follow the best practices will help you mitigate these risks. Let’s go over some of the most important principles you should follow when it comes to record management.

Make privacy and security your priority

One of the first steps you should take in order to ensure compliance is to make sure that you have strict data privacy and data security measures set in place. If your security is lacking, your sensitive data will be vulnerable to breaches.

It’s crucial to respond to security alerts and keep private data from getting into the wrong hands. You should choose a record management system with built-in security features to ensure that the data you’re storing is being kept safe.

Encrypting your electronic records is a great way to protect the exposure of sensitive and private data even if it does end up in the wrong hands.

Another key component of data privacy and security is accessibility. On one hand, you should have different access levels within your organization, so that classified information can only be accessed by employees with appropriate permissions.

The other important element of accessibility is the discoverability and usability of data — you need to be able to easily discover, access, and use data in order to keep your workflow efficient.

Record, track, monitor

Your data will be much more manageable if you properly record it. Having a clear classification system will help you organize your data in different buckets as soon as it enters your system, making it easier to detect and use further down the line. Capturing metadata is also important, as it helps locate the data easier.

Keeping track of where all the records are located is one of the biggest challenges of data management. From separate physical and digital records to different digital repositories, it can be easy to lose track of your data, so try to have an organization system that will help you avoid this.

It’s crucial to be able to easily locate and access your records. You need your data to be accessible in order to improve day to day efficiency and productivity, but also to be able to easily audit your records in case of litigation.

Legal costs can quickly add up, so spending even more money on reviewing unorganized records is something that can be easily avoided by keeping your records neat. 

Having a centralized and well-organized records repository will also enable you to track and monitor your data. 

Create a records management policy

A clearly defined records management policy is the heart of every effective records management strategy.

All of your record management procedures and processes should be thoroughly documented, and you need to make sure that your employees understand not only how these rules should be implemented, but also why they are so important.

Before creating your record management policy, you should do thorough research on relevant legislations and industry standards, as well as your company culture in order to ensure that these rules will be implemented seamlessly into the workflow without disrupting it.

Regularly review your strategy

Creating a records management strategy is not a one-time project. Legislations can change, so can your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to do annual reviews to assess the state of your information management.

If compliance requirements have changed, you need to change your policy accordingly. Even if there haven’t been any legislative changes, annual reviews can help you detect if there are any bumps in the road.

Maybe your policy looks good on paper, but it’s simply not working in practice. Regularly reviewing your policy and tweaking it if necessary will help you ensure that everything is running smoothly and that your records management process is fully optimized.

Record retention and record disposal

While legal requirements dictate that you should keep your records for a certain period of time, the longer you keep them, the more vulnerable they are to data breaches.

Knowing exactly how long you should retain each type of your records will help you get rid of them once this period expires without getting into legal trouble. Keeping the amount of sensitive data you store to the minimum will also minimize the risk of data exposure.

Although some records should be kept indefinitely, most of the records can be deleted after some time.

When it comes to communication records, your email retention policy should be anywhere between 1 and 7 years. This mainly depends on the industry — for example, in healthcare and the financial industry, it’s required to keep email records for 7 years, in education for 5, and in pharmaceutical for only 2 years.

Automate as much as you can

If your record management system is reliant on your employees to actively participate and engage, you’ll almost certainly have issues with its implementation. 

Manual record-keeping can be quite a burden for your employees and can seriously hinder their productivity. An effective records management system should be automated and do all the work in the background without disrupting the workflow.

Over to you

Navigating through record management can be an overwhelming challenge for some businesses. That’s probably why many of them fail to do it properly and see it as an afterthought.

However, the risk of potential penalties and reputational damage is too high not to take records management seriously.

Follow these guidelines to make your records management seamless and protect your business from the risks of non-compliance.

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