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What is records management?

Understand the importance and advantages of good records management.

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Definition of records management

Records management is the control and maintenance of both digital and hard copy documentation of transactions and business activity, also known as records. This includes the creation, identification, storage, retrieval and disposition of such records.

Why is records management important?

Proper records management is important because it gives organizations control of and power over its information, while facilitating better strategic planning for the business.

All of this should be done according to regulatory compliance to reduce the risks, costs and further liabilities of handling sensitive data.

What are the different types of records management?

There are two categories of records management:

  • Traditional physical paper documents: Paper records are often managed by an off-site record management firm or kept on premises in an office filing cabinet. Smaller organizations sometimes store hardcopy documents in office spaces, but as they grow, so does the number of records they need to track — which eventually leads to misplaced documents, slow processes and confusion.
  • Electronic files: Electronic files are digital information that can be created, stored, modified, archived and distributed by an electronic system. This includes text-based documents, digital images, audio files, emails, SMS messages, databases and other electronic formats. Electronic records are protected through specific regulations. This means sensitive and confidential data must be preserved, maintained and destroyed in compliance with these regulations.

How a records management system works

An electronic records management system uses pre-defined rules to fully automate records managing from record declaration through final disposition.

The solution automatically:

  • Declares documents as records
  • Places events and holds on records
  • Destroys and purges records from the system

> Read more | How an electronic document management system (EDMS) facilitates more control over record lifecycles

The 5 benefits of good records management

Records management processes bring fundamental improvements to the way crucial business information is handled on a day-to-day basis. Core benefits include:

1. Greater control over record lifecycles

Efficient record management controls your files’ entire lifecycles — from the moment they are created through their destruction.

Business users are notified when documents are no longer required to be stored in the system and should be properly disposed of according to compliance. This decreases the likelihood of document disarray and subsequently reduces organizations’ risk of data breaches that come with the improper storage, archival and deposition of records.

2. Faster file retrieval and distribution

Modern records management systems have automated workflow processes that allow for faster and easier access to crucial business information. Reaching a business goal becomes less of a frustrating, paper-chasing ordeal and employees can confidently focus on higher-value tasks that allow for business milestones to be achieved with greater precision.

For example, an HR generalist doesn’t have to remember how long to keep a W-4 form after an employee leaves the organization, and instead can focus on finding and retaining talent. Record managers can focus on the overall process and maintain visibility over records and retention enterprise-wide, rather than manage individual records or employees.

> Learn more | How federated search consolidates information from various data sources 

3. Better regulatory compliance

A record management system minimizes the liabilities that come with improper document disposal. For instance, failure to present up-to-date records during audits may result in fines or penalties.

Organizations must have a strong record management system in place to make sure they adhere to all applicable standards, as record compliance is more stringent than ever. Records management systems do this by controlling who can access, edit or delete information — thus preserving document integrity at every stage of its lifecycle.

4. Lower costs and maximum ROI

Managing paper-based records requires a significant amount of time and money, especially considering organizations must find storage space, print and file all physical documents.

With electronic records management, organizations keep only the information that is important, useful or required. This reduces storage costs, boosts team productivity and saves businesses the hassle of looking for files or replacing those that were lost.

5. Clearer knowledge preservation

At the core of every agile organization is its records and data, which play a crucial role in future planning and decision-making.

A central location for records allows informed decisions to be made faster, as businesses have greater transparency over the lifecycle of the document.

Automation advantages: How records management can go to the next level

Good records management in today’s business climate can’t be achieved without technology — in particular, automated records management.  

Automating the records management process allows organizations to: 

  • Simplify the complete management of records from creation to disposition 
  • Correctly manage physical and digital records from a single platform 
  • Improve consistency and precision in high-touch tasks such as declarations, approvals, holds, retention and disposal 
  • Ensure records are disposed of according to schedule 
  • Maintain instant accessibility and proof of integrity 
  • Assist in compliance with government rules and regulations, s well as organizational records retention requirements 
  • Save on storage space and processing expenses through automatic destruction of records 
  • Minimize manual work so employees can spend more time on useful business activities 
  • Generate certificates of destruction for chain of custody 
  • Enhance employee and/or customer interactions with up-to-date information 

Demo: WorkView Physical Records Management

Hyland's OnBase helps organizations electronically retrieve, request and track paper records. Manage physical records alongside electronic documents and records, using OnBase as the single interface.

Implementing a records management solution

When you’re ready to implement records management software, begin with a department where retention requirements are already established. 

The best records management solutions are easily configurable. They provide customers with the ability to meet compliance or records retention requirements at a fraction of the time, cost and risk of manual methods.

If retention requirements are not established, work with a single department to define content types and associated retention schedules.

Records management and Hyland

Hyland’s content management platforms (OnBase, Alfresco and Nuxeo) all have strong, proven records management components. Learn more about content management with Hyland or take this free assessment to see what solutions your organizations could benefit from. 

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