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Organizations today are handling more data than ever. With the constant influx of documents, spreadsheets, emails, and even social media posts—it’s becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) to efficiently manage this ever-mounting information and ensure transparency to protect the present and future of their business.

To bring order to the chaos, many organizations implement a practice known as records management (RM), which helps them easily locate files, streamline business operations, and ensure compliance with industry regulations in case of a lawsuit or audit.

If your content is piling up and you spend more time searching for information than actually using it, having a reliable records management system can help you finally organize your content and prevent business-critical information from slipping through the cracks. Here’s what you should know about records management and what to consider when planning the most effective setup for your business.

What exactly is records management?

Records management provides a framework for how your organization creates, safeguards, uses and disposes of business transactions. Essentially, it helps you organize and keep what you need for as long as you need it, and safely dispose of what is no longer relevant to your business. 

In this context, a record is any content handled on the job that documents a business activity. Records create a “corporate memory” that can be supported with evidence on paper (e.g. cheques, receipts) or digital (e.g. emails, spreadsheets, chat logs, photos). Even a doodle on a napkin can be used as proof in an audit or court case.

Why is records management important?

It’s not just corporations who should keep their data in order. Even the smallest business can accumulate a tremendous amount of information in a short amount of time. Without proper record management, important documents can be easily misplaced or buried—a problem that will only snowball as your business expands.

Having a robust records management system to handle your growing content offers many advantages, such as:

  • Effectively categorize, track and retrieve important files 
  • Improve knowledge sharing and employee efficiency with easy access to company information
  • Quickly locate the right information to better serve your customers
  • Provide transparency into business processes for better management decisions
  • Reduce clutter and storage costs by disposing of unneeded information
  • Ensure compliance with data retention and protection laws
  • Provide protection in case of a lawsuit or security breach
  • Allow for continuity in case of an emergency, like a flood or fire
  • Provides an unalterable audit trail of records activities along with disposal certificates providing a framework for defensible disposition.

What can happen if you don’t implement records management?

Not having a records management system in place has different consequences for each organization, ranging from piles of messy paperwork to fines and even criminal charges. A popular cautionary tale is the Morgan Stanley lawsuit that resulted in a $1.45 billion fine—largely due to their repeated failure to retrieve emails and online documents as evidence in court.

While such severe consequences won’t apply to every organization, it’s better to proactively establish a record management policy rather than wait until a problem emerges.

How are modern companies handling records management?

Most modern organizations are going digital and use a document management system, such as Microsoft’s flagship M365 platform, to centralize their content and securely store them in the cloud for convenient retrieval, easier audits, and lower storage costs. 

Although with digital records being generated every second, it’s impractical to constantly move them from where they were created to a centralized system. Federated records management, on the other hand, is a much more flexible approach where records can be governed while staying exactly where they are. 

Fortunately, you can partner M365 with a federated records management solution, such as THEMIS RM, to seamlessly manage your records in M365 (Teams, OneDrive, and SharePoint) as well as in connected business systems. This better-together approach keeps your records in place for simpler governance and management while also giving you advanced capabilities, including file plan integration, assigned approvals, disposition certifications, and even a rule-based engine that automatically classifies your content. 

Learn how to implement effective records management

With a growing focus on data compliance, accessibility, and security, every modern organization needs to have a plan for records management. While it’s a daunting undertaking with far-reaching implications, there are many tools and best practices that can help you easily manage every aspect.

For a deep dive into records management, join us for Episode 3 of the Digital Transformation Journey Webinar Series, “Harness The Power Of Artificial Intelligence To Improve Your Records Management Program”, this Thursday, October 29 at 11:00 AM ET and learn from our VP Product Management, Dan Taillefer, and Microsoft MVP, Erica Toelle, about everything from how to get started and what tools to use. In just an hour, you can learn how to ensure your organization can thrive while meeting legal, regulatory, and business-critical expectations.

Sign up for EPISODE 3 here.