Records Management: What It Entails & How It Works

BY IT GLUE | September 07, 2021

The business world is creating data at breakneck speed and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Despite the massive volumes of data generated every day, it is estimated that only 5% to 10% of the data has any enduring value for an organization. Extracting meaningful information from a massive stockpile of data requires proper data maintenance and organization. This is where records management comes into play.

A comprehensive records management program can go a long way in helping an organization reach its business goals. In this blog, we’ll discuss the different aspects of records management and how you can benefit from it.

What Is Records Management?

Records management refers to the process you can implement to control the creation, maintenance, receipt and disposal of information irrespective of the format. In other words, it refers to the management of a company’s valuable information throughout its lifecycle – from creation to disposal.

A record could be any information maintained as evidence or used for any business transactions. Some of the examples of records include final reports, budget documents, company balance sheets, emails referring to an action, maps of field missions, etc.

What is the purpose of records management?

The main goal of records management is to keep valuable information readily accessible for business requirements as well as compliance audits. For large organizations, it is impossible to track every piece of valuable information with the help of a simple spreadsheet. They need a strategy and proper recordkeeping to keep everything organized and readily available.

With a records management policy, you can create a taxonomy of your records and ensure retention at any preferable time. You can use software tools, such as IT documentation software, to organize your valuable information.

Why Is Records Management Important?

Managing the massive volumes of records being generated every day is impossible without records management. Just to give you a little perspective, we have created about 44 zettabytes of data in the global datasphere as of 2020, and this is expected to multiply four-fold to 175 zettabytes by 2025 (a zettabyte is one billion terabytes).

You need records management to control the growth of records and to extract valuable information from them. Even if you manage everything electronically, the sheer amount of costs and productivity involved could overwhelm any organization.

Besides the potential business losses, poor records management could also lead to hefty compliance penalties, loss of productivity, unnecessary audits, data overload and more. Records management is the best possible solution to address all these issues and maintain compliance with data privacy regulations.

What are the benefits of records management?

Some of the key benefits of records management are listed as follows:

  • Lower storage costs: Although your organization may have a huge volume of files, emails and business reports, only a small portion of them will be of significant value. When you have a strategy to manage these records, you can retain only valuable records and dispose of the rest. This ensures efficient allocation of data storage space and reduces the cost of storing information.
  • Ensure regulatory compliance: There are multiple regulatory laws governing how well records should be maintained in an organization. Noncompliance can result in severe legal actions and costly penalties. When you have proper records management in place, you can easily adhere to compliance laws and avoid penalties.
  • Protect vital information: Every organization has vital information to safeguard and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. If you can’t organize your vital information, you cannot preserve its integrity and confidentiality. Records management can help you organize data and protect you from data loss vulnerability.
  • Efficient retrieval of records: Your records are useful only when they can be efficiently retrieved. With a powerful document management platform, you can easily store and retrieve information whenever you want. Better accessibility to information helps organizations make better business decisions.
  • Easy automation of workflow: When your information is disorganized, your business will spend a lot of time storing and searching for records. With a records management system, you can make the entire process efficient and automate the workflow.

What Are the Types of Records?

Based on the functions they serve, records can be categorized into different types. Some of the common types are listed as follows:

Physical records

These are hard copies of information stored on various media like notes and papers. These records take up physical space.

Electronic records

A record created and stored via electronic means is called an electronic record. They can be stored digitally and don’t take much physical space.

Enterprise records

These are documents pertaining to a company’s operation. Agreements, contracts, payroll records, etc., are enterprise records.

Industry records

These are records that concern the operation of a particular industry. For instance, medical industry records have documents and research material related to the industry in general.

Legal hold records

These are mandated records legally enforced by law. Rules regarding compliance regulations can be considered as legal hold records.

What Is the Records Lifecycle?

All records go through a lifecycle, from stages of their creation to disposal. Knowing these stages helps you protect and organize your data properly. Each stage has its own importance in the lifecycle and the objectives of each stage must be appropriately fulfilled to ensure the lifecycle continuation.

What are the five phases of the records lifecycle?

The five phases are as follows:

1. Create/Receive: This concerns creating a record internally or receiving it from an external source. The record could be in any format including paper documents, digital forms, emails, reports, etc.

2. Use/Modify: Reports that are used frequently are stored internally to ensure quick retrieval. Other reports are secured off-site and used when appropriate.

3. Maintain/Protect: This stage identifies the duration for which a record must be maintained and protected. You need to make sure it is compliant with the data retention laws.

4. Dispose/Destroy: Once a record has served its purpose, it is faced with two options – dispose or archive. When you are absolutely sure of not needing a record anymore, you can securely destroy it.

5. Archive/Preserve: Following the disposal of non-essential records, you must identify records that have permanent retention value and archive them.

What are the Components of Records Management?

Although there are many components of records management, there are four foundational elements that form the crux of a records management program. The major components are:

  • Policies & Procedures: A records management program starts with defining the parameters of the program. You need policies to denote authority levels and responsibilities at various stages. There should also be specific instructions regarding how the policies will be implemented.
  • Records Retention Schedule: Some records have long retention times while some have short ones. This schedule indicates the minimum duration a record should last in an organization.
  • Records Filing System: There should be a strategy for filing and storage of records. You can classify records based on how they are stored – digital or physical. This also indicates the importance of a record.
  • Training & Auditing: Recordkeeping is not a one-man job. You need a team of qualified people to do the work. You need to train them regularly and conduct regular audits to ensure their effectiveness.

What Is an Electronic Records Management (ERM) System?

Electronic Records Management (ERM) refers to the management of files and documents stored electronically. It ensures an organization has access to the right records when they are needed. When records are stored electronically, it boosts efficiency through automation. An ERM software can help you automate the process, eliminate duplication and facilitate easy maintenance.

What are the benefits of electronic records management systems?

Some of the notable benefits of ERM systems are as follows:

  • ERM helps you automatically identify records, classify them, store them and retrieve them without much effort. You can also automatically capture document metadata and automate the entire process.
  • With electronic records, you can access the right information at the right time. The time spent searching physical records is eliminated when everything is stored electronically.
  • It is easy to refer to past data when records are stored electronically. You can easily understand past decisions and make new decisions based on them.
  • You can easily achieve compliance when using ERM systems. With automated storage and disposition of records, you can easily prove compliance and continue with your business operations.

Implement Superior Electronic Records Management with IT Glue

IT Glue is a leading, cloud-based documentation platform that can facilitate records management in your organization. The knowledge you and your team gather in your everyday tasks can be easily consolidated and related to hardware and software information. This means everything can be accessed from a single pane of glass, putting everything at your fingertips.

IT Glue’s SOC 2-compliant documentation platform features an immutable audit trail, multifactor authentication and next-generation password management engine, all of which are fully integrated and linked with all your documentation.

To know more about how IT Glue can help with records management, request a demo.

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