Records are essential components of every business and organization. Business transactions and processes result to reports, documents, files, and contracts. Invoices, receipts, presentations, memos and letters are all too common in a business setting. Without a doubt, records are a big part of the corporate life and managing these records one of the building blocks for a transparent and credible organization. Effective records management practice takes it a step further in making a successful, operational business.

Records management doesn’t have to be a time or cost-intensive activity. I does need to be a regular part of business operations. If you don’t have a structured records-management policy or plan in place, there will be some cost is getting one established. Eventually, you will see a payoff from eliminating unnecessary files.

Your records management program will be unique to your business. Every organization has different records-management need. However, there are some common elements to every document-management process. Here are eight steps to create an effective records management program:

  1. Determine what records you need to have. Every organization needs certain records to function. However, according to Advanced Information Technologies, the volume of paper records doubles every 3.3 years. You need to determine what records you have to keep and what records can be tossed.
  2. Take inventory to see what records you are keeping. An effective records-management program begins with an audit of every piece of paper and electronic file in your organization. You should know what records you currently maintain before developing your records-management policy.
  3. Create a document retention schedule based on legal requirements and business needs. The foundation of a records-management program is the retention schedule. You need to list every type of document you generate along with its life span. This process should be completed with appropriate legal, financial and business consultation.
  4. Figure out the best way to store each type of record. In this day and age of technological options, there are a variety of ways of permanently storing records: paper, computer disks, ROM, microfilm, tape, etc. Choose your storage solutions based on these considerations: space, cost, flexibility, safety and integrity.
  5. Create a location for records storage. Just as there are various media for records storage, there are many locations for storing records: in work areas, a records department, a centralized internal location, or in an external location. Choosing a storage location will depend on how often and how quickly you need to access the records.
  6. Develop appropriate security to protect records from damage, loss or unauthorized access. There is no getting away from the security and integrity in records management. This is another area often regulated by law.
  7. Develop a procedure for archiving inactive records. Records management should be a routine part of your business operations. Records should be regularly evaluated for transfer to archive and long-term storage solutions. The transfer process should include a system to track the location of stored records.
  8. Create a policy and procedure for destroying expired records. Few records need to be or should be kept permanently. They can be destroyed after a predefined period.

A sound records-management process should be a priority in any organization. Any old approach will not do. It’s time to get your records under control and experience the benefit of good records management.

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