Records management should be an intricate part of an organization’s daily operations. With the influx of data and even tighter regulations, it has become an inevitable process to ensure that your business is not prone to financial, legal and organizational risks. Irrespective of what industry you operate in, or your organization’s size and offering, records management should be among your top-priority operations.
Information and records management is the process of governing and administering all information in your organization throughout its lifecycle. To achieve and maintain an efficient records management system, you can follow the below 6 steps.
1 – Understand the Information Lifecycle Process
Most organizations struggle with keeping track of what records are up to date, where valuable records are stored, and what is outdated. Employing an information lifecycle process can help you better manage your records if you have visibility on all your data and processes.
The information lifecycle includes the following:
- Creating your information and declaring records in the appropriate format and context.
- Classifying your information according to its function and type.
- Storing your information in a formal information taxonomy.
- Securing all information to ensure that it’s protected from mismanagement and unauthorized access.
- Maintaining information through frequent monitoring and auditing to preserve its value.
- Disposing of records that have reached their disposition date to reduce liability, and cut costs.
2 – Formulate a Records Management Strategy
All organizations should plan and create a concise records management strategy aligned with their informational goals and compliance obligations. You will need to consider the data structures, information architecture, roles, and policies that make up your information ecosystem.
It is important to make your employees advocates of this effort by including them in the strategy on a business-unit by business-unit basis.
A strategic approach to records management should involve an extensive understanding of the organization’s data landscape:
- Identify and engage with critical business units to identify their requirements around the organization’s records management.
- If already existing, assess the adequacy of your current records management environment and practices. Pinpoint what is valuable and identify which areas need improvement.
- Ensure that your strategy aligns with relevant industry compliance and regulatory standards.
3 – Prioritize Security and Privacy
All business records need to be protected from damage, loss, destruction, misuse, and unauthorized disclosure, whether physical or electronic.
To protect your business-critical data and records, you need to ensure that stringent security and privacy measures are implemented. If your security efforts are lacking, you could be susceptible to a breach, causing business repercussions. Therefore, organizations must find the best ways to safeguard customer and organizational data.
With inadequate security, cybercriminals can also gain access to valuable business records, instate malware in an organizations infrastructure and seize your client database. Here’s how you can protect your records:
- Implement access control to prevent unauthorized access, destruction and operations. Organizations must ensure that only individuals with appropriate permissions can access sensitive records.
- If your records are physical, keep them locked, filed with limited access. You can also keep your records under surveillance.
- Ensure that your systems are configured with appropriate security, anti-virus software, password protection, and automatic lock features.
- Schedule frequent audits to ensure that you reduce the chances of a data breach.
4 – Perform Annual Audits
Records management is not a once-off process. It’s key to understanding where the gaps and risks in your organization lie. Be sure to implement regular or annual audits to monitor the success of your records management system. Doing so will help you in the long run – enabling you to mitigate risks and redundant tasks and improve the overall management of your records.
- Most important- know why you are performing an audit. This will help you formulate a goal and measure your progress.
- Consider what data is redundant, obsolete or trivial. This will help you classify your information, only using business-critical data to elevate your business.
- How are your records being created and indexed? Understanding how records are created plays a significant role in managing the information and developing consistent processes that define the lifecycle of the records.
- Know where you are storing your records. Are there unaccounted duplicate copies? A sign of poorly managed records is creating multiple copies to access. This often becomes a problem when you need to apply retention schedules.
5 – Dispose of Your Records
An effective records management system will require you to dispose of records that are no longer relevant at the end of their lifecycle. Whether physical or electronic, your records must be disposed of according to your retention schedules and applicable industry regulations.
- Appoint an information officer or team who will be authorized to delete records. The same department will oversee that information is protected from any possible mismanagement.
- Make use of systems and tools that will assist the organization in identifying and getting rid of duplicate and redundant records.
- If you are using physical records management, ensure that you shred your confidential records so that the information cannot be read or reconstructed.
Getting in the habit of authorized disposal of information will improve your information ecosystem and present you with a series of other advantages. You will have better control of your records management, increasing efficiency by making retrieval faster and easier, playing a more active role in how you store, maintain and access records, reducing the risk of breaches, facilitating compliance, and driving improved decision-making. All this will contribute to a valuable and fruitful information ecosystem.
Conclusion: How to Simplify Your Records Management
Information mismanagement is a significant contributor to substandard record-keeping and can easily hamper an organization’s compliance with regulatory requirements. It can also impact your ability to record, track and monitor your data. To simplify your records management and make the above recommendations more effective, you can: classify your physical or electronic records to make it easier for you to file, retrieve and archive data; have a centralized location to store your records; it improves user efficiency, improves storage, and accelerates security and compliance. Lastly, if you are using physical records management, consider digitizing your system.
It will enable you to automate your records, capture and manage data in different repositories. Getting in the habit of frequently monitoring and auditing your records, will also help you identify and improve on any inefficiencies.
Don’t stop here, join our live webinar (26th Jan) and register to know more about creating an Information Strategy for 2022:
In this webinar, we bring you information management experts and specialists to unpack the best practice information strategy checklist for 2022 and how you can implement collaboration for business continuity and growth.
The session will cover the following:
- Formulating an Information Strategy Checklist
- Prioritizing Backup and Data Recovery
- An Introduction to Collaboration Resilience
- Identifying Gaps and Improving Your Information Strategy