Today, too many companies either underestimate the importance of records management, or view this process as a matter of convenience (rather than one of necessity). And yet, records management programs are vital for any office with ongoing recordkeeping, as they offer a number of advantages akin to productivity and cost savings. What’s more, a good records management system helps ensure compliance and quick access to your most-referenced files.

The Importance of Records Management

What is a record?

A record is any document that’s created or received in an office setting, and that supports an organization in conducting its business. A record — whether paper or digital — contains information that is made, produced, executed, or received in connection with transactional office activities, and is either preserved permanently or temporarily (according to a predetermined retention schedule). Records are hard evidence of an agency’s unique policies, procedures, and decisions, and often hold significant administrative, historical, and legal value. 

Why is records management important?

The importance of records management lies in how it oversees information that’s been created, received, maintained, and disposed of (regardless of the document’s format). In other words, records management supervises records throughout their lifecycle, including compliance with set retention procedures. Leveraging records management is the best way to guarantee records with historical, fiscal, and legal impact are accurately identified and preserved, and that non-essential records are discarded as often as is required by established guidelines.

8 benefits of efficient records management

A quality records management system can bring numerous benefits to your organization, from improved efficiency and faster retrieval, to enhanced workflows and minimized risks. The following are a few of the top reasons for your agency to invest in a records management system of its own, and start enjoying all the perks as soon as possible. 

1. Easier compliance

With record compliance growing increasingly stricter, it’s crucial for organizations to have a solid record management system in place to ensure they abide by all necessary regulations. These laws and regulations can include things like HIPAA, FACTA, and/or the HITECH Act — all of which merit a well-structured approach to records management. And easier, more seamless compliance is incredibly helpful to your agency as a whole, considering enforcement for noncompliance can be quite severe (ranging from legal actions to other expensive penalties). 

To make sure you follow through with regulatory compliance, you’ll likely need the help of records management technology, in addition to a trusted policy for records retention.

2. Better workflows

The truth is, most agencies don’t analyze the time spent on storing or searching for records, so it’s difficult to know how much time is wasted in the process. But when documents are stored onsite in overflowing file cabinets, there’s no doubt a lot of time is lost while trying to recover relevant information. Worse yet, after records have been retrieved, they’ll eventually need to be refiled, which takes up additional hours that could be better used elsewhere within the office. 

Thanks to a unified, comprehensive records management system, your most noteworthy data and details can be conveniently accessed whenever you need them. In turn, this promotes better workflows, and boosts your organization’s ability to handle business in a timely fashion and ensure service delivery to constituents. 

3. Cost savings

Consider the volume of reports and emails your business produces on a daily basis; out of all of that information, there may be only a small percentage that is actually useful (or that needs to be kept on file). Moreover, handling records — especially the paper variety — demands considerable time and money due to locating adequate storage space and printing or filing all your physical forms. Fortunately, with proper records management, your agency can gain control over the growth of its records and be sure it retains the most relevant or pertinent data. 

Digital records management offers notable cost savings by reducing your storage fees and improving the efficiency of your team (i.e. less time spent searching for lost or misplaced files). 

4. Effective retrieval 

Simply put, information is only useful when it can be retrieved; if you’re unable to access your files when (or how often) you need, there’s almost no point in storing them at all. But with effective retrieval and accessible systems, your agency can make informed decisions in a snap. Records management software not only makes document retrieval more streamlined, but it disposes of unwanted data so that your most important items can be utilized unencumbered. 

Plus, with a cloud-based records management system, data can be shared and updated remotely rather than solely on-premises. This level of retrieval capability allows managers or department leads to have all the information they need right at their fingertips, and enables them to achieve smarter, more deliberate outcomes time and time again.

5. Minimize risks

By implementing records management, your agency can readily reduce the risks of litigation and/or potential penalties. That’s because a thorough and thoughtful records management strategy can minimize the liabilities associated with document disposal (meaning it dramatically reduces the risk of fines or other disciplinary actions). In fact, well-executed records management mitigates these risks in much the same way that legal counsel or an insurance policy might — by protecting against unwanted or unforeseen future events.

While most compliance risk comes from documents that are destroyed prematurely, there is equal (or greater) risk in storing documents for too long; records can and should be destroyed after a certain number of years, depending on the file type. If a file is retained beyond when it was supposed to be destroyed, it can still be used against an organization in legal proceedings.

6. Protect data

Protecting your data is one of the greatest concerns of agencies everywhere (as it should be). Every organization, no matter the size, needs intelligent programming to help protect its personnel files and other confidential information from the threat of disaster or theft. The most effective records management systems have the ability to digitize your incoming mail, invoices, client contracts, and more, so each of these documents exists in a searchable archive as soon as it’s received. Then, when combined with a trusted IT program, your data will be properly safeguarded and available whenever it’s needed. 

In that way, records management preserves the integrity and privacy of your records, and makes sure all sensitive content or employee details can’t be accessed by unauthorized users. 

7. Preserve knowledge 

An organization’s records are a vast database which holds the contents for any and all future planning and decision-making. Every single record created within a given business day could be used or referenced down the line in pivotal decisions, policy updates, and so on. Since records document the ongoing activities at your place of business, they’re a great resource for fact checking or confirming information as it relates to one or more team members. 

This preservation of knowledge is essential for the continued success of your agency, as well for improved productivity within your department in both the short and long-term.

8. Boost morale

There’s no denying that poorly managed records, unorganized filing systems, and recurrent loss of documents creates a less-than-ideal office environment — which can have a direct impact on employees’ morale or motivation at work. Though it’s difficult to quantify how much these circumstances negatively affect your team, it’s no doubt noticeable. By implementing a strong system for records management, you can boost the overall feeling among everyone on your staff, and give increased confidence that things are running according to plan. 

How the Texas Department of Insurance saved costs by setting up a records management system

Until very recently, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) was spending more than $300,000 annually to store Workers’ Compensation files. This expense seemed to be continually growing, given their increasing record volumes and the labor it took to manage 20,000 boxes of case files. Locating documents was a daily frustration, and the TDI team was struggling to respond to record requests in a timely manner. However, the tide really turned for this organization when they sought the help of Image API to digitize over 800,000 case files.

With the support of Image API’s digital document management, more than 50 million images were delivered to the TDI over the course of this project. In turn, the department was relieved of paying hundreds of thousands in storage costs, and dramatically improved the turnaround time for their numerous records requests.

How to easily set up your records management system

While storing paper documents is still a common approach to records management, it’s also a  costly and time-consuming method that’s growing more and more antiquated. And not only are paper files inconvenient, they’re readily outperformed by today’s leading technology solutions — which includes digital document management. 

For over two decades, Image API has been helping agencies across the country to simplify their workflows via intelligent digitization, cloud content management, and digital process automation. Image API has the experience and expertise needed to resolve all types of paper-related problems, and to streamline how you circulate and share your files. When your organization is functioning at the speed of digital, you’ll be well on your way toward maximizing your time, achieving measurable results, and adding significant value to your agency for years to come.

Records management FAQs

What are the functions and uses of records?

A record contains information that is made, produced, executed, or received in connection with transactional office activities, and supports an organization in conducting its business. Records are hard evidence of an agency’s unique policies, procedures, and decisions, and often hold significant administrative, historical, and legal value. 

What are the basic principles of records management?

The basic principles of records management are: purpose, verification, classification, reasonable cost, elasticity, retention, and availability. In essence, these principles dictate what a ‘good’ records management system is, and represent a structure to be sought after.

What happens if you don’t keep a record of important files?

Office records provide a history of an agency’s unique policies and decisions, and contain a lot of administrative, historical, and legal value — which is why it’s so vital to have proper recordkeeping procedures. If your organization doesn’t keep a record of its important files, you open yourself up to lost information, failed compliance or audits, and costly legal repercussions. 

 

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About the Author: Meredith Kane

Meredith Kane is a freelance copywriter based in Des Moines, Iowa, not far from where she grew up. She's been creating SaaS and B2B content for the last several years, which is largely focused on the practical application of today's digital solutions.