Organizations that handle their records with efficient records management practices increase productivity and the overall effectiveness of corporate operations. If you don’t have one already, your organization should create and implement a records management strategy that sits at the heart of your organization’s records, processes, and procedures. Hey, let’s go ahead and label this best practice #1: Develop a records management strategy.
When implementing a strategy, consider the records management lifecycle that helps you manage and maintain records from creation to disposition. Every document has a different lifecycle which could run from a few days to permanently, so think about how you can tighten up your processes within each phase.
Here are best practices for records management following the records management lifecycle.
Best Practice #2: Develop Goals and Key Metrics
- As with any strategy, start from the drawing board.
- Determine, “Why are we implementing these practices?” Are you trying to help your employees and customers find documents more quickly, save on document storage costs, improve collaboration, boost security, or re-engineer manual processes? These goals will keep you aligned when developing your new records management process.
- Next, you’ll want to choose your key metrics to track progress. Start with baseline metrics of historical data, and then compare with the results of your new records management practices – Here are some examples:
- How many navigation issues have been reported?
- How many records are properly stored with metadata?
- How long is it taking users to find the appropriate documents?
- Are you meeting compliance requirements?
- How long does it take for documents to run through the entire cycle?
- Is record storage and sharing following security protocol? Where is it strong and weak?
4. Once you have your goals and key metrics set, you can move on to other areas of the records management lifecycle.
Lifecycle Phase: Document Creation or Intake
- This is the first step of the records management process, which starts with creating or receiving a physical or digital document related to your organization’s transactions or activities—for example, a financial report, a company announcement, or a new patient record.
- Best Practice #3: During the intake phase, all records should be identified and documented by type. Ideally, this would be automated.
Lifecycle Phase: Indexing and Categorization
- Document indexing, or classification, is the process of using effective metadata naming practices to make storing, finding and sorting your digital files easier. The information is based on criteria you set that makes the most sense for your business. Through indexing, you make search and retrieval of information faster and easier for your end users.
- Best Practice #4: If you don’t have one already, obtain a Document Management System (DCM) or Enterprise Content Management System (ECM). A priority for any organization is to ensure strict data security and privacy measures are in place while documents are at rest, in transit, and in use. If security is lax, your data could be vulnerable to a breach. Electronic document and records management systems typically have built-in security features to keep information safe, with data encryption in transit through a strong SSL connection. If your company uses a cloud-based document management system, all your files are regularly backed up to the cloud.
Lifecycle Phase: Secure Storage and Use
- A priority for any organization is to ensure strict data security and privacy measures are in place while documents are at rest, in transit, and in use. If security is lax, your data could be vulnerable to a breach. Electronic document and records management systems typically have built-in security features to keep information safe, with data encryption in transit through a strong SSL connection. If your company uses a cloud-based document management system, all your files are backed up to the cloud regularly.
- Best Practice #5: Move away from paper documents as much as you can. Traditional document management practices encourage saving documents on local computers and non-controlled file sharing. Many risks are associated with paper documents being left out in the open, including in the printer output trays. Not to mention, paper documents are lost and difficult to find, leaving valuable information inaccessible when it’s needed most.
Best Practice #6: Take Advantage of the Cloud
- With on-premises systems, physical assets like servers, routers, and hard drives are purchased, installed, and ultimately replaced. They require expensive, time-consuming maintenance and have no backups in case of a breach or physical damage. Those are records you could lose without recovery.
- When you opt for cloud-based document management, it’s easier to secure and maintain your infrastructure without investing in more in-house IT resources. Your cloud provider will likely have security built into their infrastructure, protecting you from something like massive data loss. Cloud document management systems also work for staff on mobile devices wherever there’s an internet connection, supporting secure remote work environments and greater team flexibility.
Best Practice #7: Automate Where You Can
- When you establish your goals, look at your current processes, and think about what you can automate within your records management process. Automation works well with simple, repetitive processes, like data entry and classification, because workflow steps are a snap to define and optimize. This results in saving your people’s time and your organization money and providing the opportunity to shift your team’s focus to higher-value work.
Lifecycle Phase: Final Disposition Reviews
- The final vital record management practice is to know when to delete documents or when to archive them. While some industry regulations dictate that certain records must be kept indefinitely, most records should be destroyed after a prescribed period. When the inactive records retention period expires, the records life cycle ends. Your records management policy should include annual reviews and assessments of internal and external compliance with your industry’s standards. It’s important to know exactly where your information is at all times.
Best Practice #8: Record Insights and Analytics
- The data world has changed; rather than pulling data to analyze and drawing conclusions to make business decisions, DMS or ECMs now work in real-time to deliver insights into your records and information. The data you want to see should align with your original goals, but you may discover more than what you came for – like how you can improve your service levels to customers, reduce operating costs, or minimize risks.
If you don’t have one already, it’s time to create a records management strategy. As best practice, really dig deep into your current process and see where there are gaps in each lifecycle phase. Beyond that, consider:
- Developing goals and key metrics
- Building a solid identification and classification system for your documents
- Obtaining Document Management System or Enterprise Content Management System
- Moving away from paper documents as much as you can
- Taking advantage of records management in the cloud
- Automating any step of the process you can
- Take advantage of insights and analytics
- Oop, one more – if you’re looking for a partner to help you discover, or rediscover, your records management process, we can help.