In today’s business environment, the protection of information has become more and more vital. Many organizations have the need to protect both the proprietary information of their company as well as the sensitive information pertaining to their customers. As the number of laws governing records management continues to increase, it becomes more important for these organizations to create a records management program, a collection of policies and best practices which covers the management of its records.
A compliant records management program is necessary for organizations to proactively and progressively store, manage and protect all of your records, media and electronic data. Organizations need to demonstrate “good faith” intentions to follow these best practices consistently and accurately.
Where do you begin when establishing your organization’s records management program? The first step is to identify a leadership or steering committee. This committee should be created with representation from all departments and the support of senior management. This committee should create a plan which addresses the following best practice areas:
- Retention. Create a retention schedule that identifies the different types of records which are stored and ensures that these records are kept as long as legally and operationally required.
- Policies and Procedures. Create the written standard for your program. These standards will serve as evidence of management’s support of and investment in a compliant records management program.
- Access and Indexing. Create a well-indexed storage system. The success of a records management program hinges on the ability of the users of the program to access information for business support, litigation response or compliance reasons. A well-indexed system will save time spent searching for records resulting in an overall cost savings for the organization.
- Compliance and Accountability. Create a plan to inform the employees of the program, ensure their understanding and establish a way of integrating the records management program into the organization’s internal audit process.
- Disposal. Create a system to routinely destroy eligible records. An established pattern serves as evidence of an organization’s good faith in their records management program. A haphazard destruction program may appear suspicious and can suggest that unfavorable or embarrassing records were destroyed intentionally.
No matter how simple or complex your compliant records management is, the most important aspect is consistency. Do your best to keep your program simple. Your records management program will be judged by the consistency of its implementation, not the details of the program’s design. The benefits of such a major investment will be short-lived if employees are not in compliance with the programs and its policies. IBI