Records are paper or digital documents or forms that provide evidence of the activities of organisations and individuals. They are created during normal business activities, and are maintained to comply with regulations and to support operations. Capturing, maintaining and keeping records mean that essential information is available to safeguard the organisation’s interests.
What is Records Management?
Organisations, public and private, create and capture records in the course of their routine activities. Legislation, industry standards or contractual terms require them to keep those records for defined periods. Additionally, organisations may choose to keep records because the information they contain is useful to the operations of the enterprise.
Regardless of the reason they are kept, quick and accurate access to the information in records is critical to the organisation’s success. Workers must be able to find the right record at the right time. If your staff cannot find the records they need, it will cost you time and money, and you may be in breach of legal or contractual obligations.
While there is a cost in storing records, whether on paper or on computer media, the greater cost is almost always the cost of finding the records you need. The more records you have stored, the more you have to search through to find what you need. Records Management is the skill to: Store the records you need or are required to have; Destroy the documents and records which you do not need to store; Know where to file your documents and records; Know how to find your documents and records when you need them; Manage the access controls so sensitive information is only accessible to authorised people.
What are the Risks?
The main risks from poor (or no) records management are:
- Staff time wasted searching for lost or mislaid documents
- Frustration and ill feeling (blame for losing the documents)
- Failure to comply with laws, regulations or contractual requirements
- Failure to comply with standards
All of these risks lead to increased cost, delays, and anxiety among your staff. They may lead to loss of customer good-will, litigation, loss of product or process quality, and loss of business.
What are the benefits?
Good records management is the foundation of any storage strategy. Until you know what you should be storing, and what you do not need to store, you cannot develop a cost-effective storage strategy. Good records management is also the foundation of storage deployment. Every worker must know where to put documents and records and how to find them again.
These simple (but rarely achieved) principles are required for normal business, and for Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel 2, G*P, and most other quality regulations.