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 information. 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
- Can provide the single source of truth for data
- 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. Proper disposition will reduce clutter, improve searches, and save time on money on storage — all while being compliant with regulations.
How are modern organizations handling records management?
Modern organizations are handling records management by first designing a proper information architecture for a records repository, such as SharePoint. Following this step, organizations are choosing to intelligently migrate and organize their content using products like THEMIS ICE: a low-effort, high accuracy, high-performance migration product using AI machine teaching capabilities from SharePoint Syntex. THEMIS ICE can sift through and remove redundant, obsolete, or trivial documents, and leverage Syntex to tag and organize content in the correct sites and libraries.
Once this step has been completed, organizations can implement an effective records management system in Microsoft 365 and ensure compliance with industry regulations. For example, organizations can apply retention labels to documents to ensure they’re kept for the required amount of time. They can even leverage THEMIS ICE to extract metadata from the documents to auto-apply labels and manage them using a file plan, which provides disposition reports to prove compliance.
The three types of retention labels that can be applied are standard, record, and regulatory record. Standard labels would be applied to a document that should be deleted after a couple of years but does not need to become a record, such as a reference document. Record labels would be applied to a document that need to become a record and have the option to be unlocked to make changes to the content or metadata. In these cases, SharePoint stores the original record in a different location so that the business remains fully compliant. Regulatory record labels are applied to documents that need to become an immutable record, meaning it cannot be unlocked to make any changes
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, check out our recent webinar 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.