If you don’t have a documented records management program in place for your organization, you should make establishing one a priority. A good records management program is systematic. Each record goes through a documented process that is easy for everyone in the company to follow.
Your records management program should be published so your employees can refer to it anytime. Having a records management program makes your business run more efficiently and dramatically improves your data security. A good records management program addresses the following elements.
The Lifecycle of Your Records
The lifecycle of your records is the stages your data goes through from the cradle to the grave. Records are either active or inactive. Active records are current client files, company projects, employee data and documentation on any other existing matters. At the end of the matter, the record becomes inactive. Over time old inactive records can be destroyed, ending those record’s lifecycles.
Your records management program should clearly define the lifecycle of your records and explain:
- What information needs to be gathered to create a record
- What happens to a record once it is created
- How to label active and inactive files
- If records are returned to clients once they become inactive
- How to track and document files that leave your organization
- The method and timeline for records destruction
- Any laws or regulations your data must comply with and your company’s policy for doing so
- How to account for files that leave the business before it is time for them to be destroyed
The Handling of Your Records
Include a section that outlines how your firm handles files in your records management program. Active and inactive records can be separated to make identifying and accessing them easy. If you store records offsite make sure you define when they should be moved and track where they go.
Your records management program should have a section on records handling that explains:
- Who within your organization can access secure records
- The policy regarding personal file sharing services like a personal Dropbox account
- How electronic records are tracked, documented, stored and destroyed
- How physical records are tracked, documented, stored and destroyed
- How to securely transfer files outside of your company to other organizations
Quarterly Disposition Schedule
Implementing a quarterly disposition schedule keeps your data organized. During the disposition, you should audit your files. Make sure they are marked in their current lifestyle stage and get rid of records that you no longer need.
The part of your records management program that defines the disposition schedule should include:
- The employee responsible for quarterly dispositions
- The records destruction process
- The approvals required to destroy records
- How the approvals are asked for, obtained and documented
- How to track which files have been destroyed and when destruction should occur
If you need more than a quarter to go through your disposition process, determine which time period works best for your company and stick to it. The key is being systematic in your process.
Once you have your records management processes defined, written, and published, make sure you train the members of your organization, so they follow the program. If you need help with any part establishing a records management program, schedule a 10-minute call with me, I am happy to assist.