Can you quickly determine what boxes belong to which department or division within your organization? If audited, would you be able to provide an accurate list of boxes containing the required category of records when asked?

Are you paying to store boxes that have no descriptive data and no one knows the contents? Do all of your records have a destroy review date, enabling you to manage both your annual storage costs and your risk? Are you always able to find the document you need quickly and easily? What are your costs if any of these answers is “no”?

These are critical questions that need to be addressed within your organization in order to determine if you have an effective records management program.

Even in large organizations the role of records manager has often been inherited late in the process. Many times this means trying to sift through a number of different filing systems or even different software programs that are used to organize and manage records.

Of course, this becomes apparent when a document can’t be found for a senior executive in your organization. When reviewing boxes in storage, companies have actually discovered that they are paying to protect copy paper, desk sets, random office supplies, and more. In order to achieve consistent results, organizations need to adhere to a standardized policy.

Creating a Standardized Records Management Policy

The first step in the process of truly managing your company’s records is to establish, communicate and implement a standard way of identifying every box of records that goes into storage. This can be done either at the container level or by listing the individual files within the boxes.

The decision should be dictated by the nature of your business and can vary across departments. But within each department, every record, or set of records, must be indexed using the same criteria, the same order, and spelled or abbreviated the same way.

The second step in this process begins with reviewing an inventory listing. Identifying those boxes with no information associated with them is simple. But it is just as important to determine which boxes are labeled with incomplete, incorrect or obsolete data.

If internal systems have changed, old conventions must be updated. Department codes may need to be revised. For example, every box belonging to Accounting should have the current cost center, but some may have an old abbreviation and others have the incorrect coding.

All of this is easy enough to resolve. But nothing happens until reports have been run and reviewed and the standards clearly established.