Data is widely considered to be among the world’s most valuable resources because of the potential revenue and business value it can provide. With the amount of data an organization can collect, businesses should develop and enforce a record retention policy. Not sure how to put a policy of that magnitude in place?
No worries. We’ve got you.
First things first – what is record retention?
Record retention is the amount of time an organization should keep confidential records based on factors such as the industry, legal obligations, and risk management. For example, retention policies for the healthcare industry have different guidelines and laws than your tax records. A clearly defined document retention policy benefits businesses and organizations through increased efficiency, data safety, and cost savings. We’re going to talk about how.
If your organization still needs to develop a document records management policy, the Best Practice for Records Management article will offer noteworthy guidance.
Why do you need a record retention policy?
A record retention policy helps businesses establish guidelines to avoid breaking local, state, and federal laws and industry regulations. These laws are implemented to keep customer and patient data safe since companies can collect large amounts of their information. Not only can you avoid a legal nightmare, but a retention policy gives you peace of mind and efficiency in the workplace.
- Stop flushing money away.
Retention policies help guarantee that you aren’t overpaying for servers and cloud storage. Suppose you saved every document that came through your doors; you’d be paying a high cost in storage and would likely be getting lost under stacks of papers. With a retention schedule, you’ll eliminate the need for more storage and staff to keep track of documents that no longer serve a business purpose.
2. Avoid repetitive work.
It’s easy to keep all your records – you know, “What if we need this?” However, hoarding documentation can escalate quickly, leaving you and your staff squashed like a bug under too many paper or digital files. For example, if your company gets audited, your team will have to spend hours to days going through outdated records until you find the right ones. However, with a record retention system and disposing of documents at their set expiration date, your staff will have less paperwork or digital files to sort through, resulting in free time that allows your team to work on higher-value tasks.
Record Retention Best Practices
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to record retention, we can still follow these best practices when creating a data retention policy:
Best Practice #1: Do your research
Different industries require different retention policies. When beginning the record retention policy, be sure to research the industry standard and any legal obligation.
Best Practice #2: Obtain a Document Management System (DCM) or Enterprise Content Management System (ECM)
An Enterprise Content Management system (ECM) can help create more formalized policy procedures that could be easily managed. An example of an ECM system would be OnBase, an enterprise information platform designed to manage content, processes, and cases. This means OnBase is an excellent system for records retention software and ensures documents are destroyed on time and cannot be unintentionally deleted beforehand.
Best Practice #3: 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 methods like data entry and classification. With automation in your records retention process, you’ll be able to build workflows that automatically sort, dispose of, or keep records on file based on criteria.
Best Practice #4: Take advantage of the cloud
Cloud-based platforms can provide a common framework for managing and tracking retention rule updates. It can also streamline the records disposition process, basing updates on “trigger events” such as the termination of a contract or a change in HR requirements.
Best Practice #5: End the Life Cycle
While some industry regulations dictate that certain records must be kept indefinitely, most forms can be destroyed or archived after a prescribed period. The record’s life cycle ends when the inactive records retention period expires.
Best Practice #6: Annual Reviews
Your records management policy should include yearly 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. For example, if you kept all your records in one room and needed one document with a client’s information, it would be difficult to find that document. Knowing where your files are can be easily found with specific parameters and indexing. You can attain your records easily with a quick search.
If you’re new to managing records or developing a record retention policy, we can provide some next steps to get you started. Learn more about how we help organizations nationwide organize their records, capture data from them, and use that information to level up their business.