Information management systems empower businesses to make the most of their data and documents. Information management leverages modern digital technology to streamline document collection, storage, and access—ensuring stakeholders have the information they need when they need it. But implementing a comprehensive information management system can be daunting, especially when regulatory compliance is on the line.

This article explores what information management is before providing a 13-point checklist—a series of questions that will guide your business toward a modern, digitized, and effective information management solution.

What is Information Management?

Information management concerns the policies, procedures, and tools a business uses to organize and administer the information lifecycle.

The information lifecycle begins with collection. Businesses ingest information from multiple sources in addition to the documents and data they generate internally. That information must be curated, classified, and stored. To be useful, it must be accessible to those who need it, but not to unauthorized individuals. If information is not relevant to ongoing operations, it may be archived. Finally, if it is no longer useful or there are legal limits to its retention, it should be destroyed.

Information management systems help businesses to streamline this process, from ingestion to record access to destruction. But information management isn’t just about technology. Employees and other stakeholders, information management policies, and the procedures that implement those policies play a critical role.

Our information management checklist will help you address all of these concerns and outline the questions you should answer as you plan and implement an effective information management system.

Information Management Planning: Assessments and Objectives

Planning is the first step in building an effective information management system. A comprehensive information management plan requires your business to identify and understand how documents and data contribute to meeting your objectives.

What are the business’s operational goals for information management?

An information management plan should be based on a company’s overarching business objectives. The ultimate objective is to maximize the value of information to your business operations. That may, in turn, serve goals that include:

  • Promoting increased sales and revenue
  • Improving customer service
  • Streamlining data-reliant processes
  • Enhancing and simplifying regulatory compliance
  • Other objectives related to the business and its operations.

Which data should be captured by information management software?

Once you’ve determined your objectives, you can assess the universe of data available and prioritize the most relevant records. For instance, you may choose not to enter low-value data into your information management system and instead focus on high-value data that generates a significant return on investment.

Which types of sensitive data will be stored, and how will it be identified?

Many businesses process data of varying levels of sensitivity. It is vital to identify the most sensitive information, such as health care records or private customer information. It may be tempting to gather as much data as possible in case it’s helpful in the future, but collecting large quantities of data without knowing how sensitive or accurate it is can create liabilities.

What legal and regulatory issues impact information management?

This question is related to the previous one, but the importance of understanding the legal and regulatory implications should be emphasized. Regulatory frameworks in the financial, legal, healthcare, government, and other fields have differing privacy, storage, retention, and destruction rules.

An experienced remote information management service will offer solutions tailored to the needs of these industries.

Are we prepared with effective change management procedures?

Information management procedures often generate process changes that you may need to be ready to manage. For example, your information management plan may require stakeholders to access information using an unfamiliar interface or refrain from using legacy processing tools. Managing these changes is critical to maximizing the benefit of an information management system.

Data Ingestion, Retention, and Disposal

A business may rely on information from multiple sources in many different formats, ranging from paper documents to PDFs to audio recordings and transcripts to video. Ideally, your information management system will be able to ingest and organize all of this data while helping you to ensure it is of sufficient quality and accuracy to support your business objectives.

How will digital records be captured?

It’s relatively straightforward to enter digital records into an information management system, but what about physical records? A typical process involves document scanning and conversion, but it’s not always necessary to scan documents immediately. Digital Delivery scan-on-demand services store physical documents securely in a remote facility, scanning and delivering a digital document only when it’s required.

How will physical records be stored or disposed of during the digitization process?

You may choose to destroy physical documents after they are scanned, store them in a remote facility with scan-on-demand services, or archive them in compliance with your business’s data retention policies – the choice is yours

How do we ensure data is retained and disposed of in accordance with regulatory requirements?

Many regulatory frameworks mandate data retention policies, particularly for personally identifiable information. Your information management software provider should be able to implement a flexible records retention schedule that aligns with your regulatory compliance needs.

Information Governance

Information governance will help you understand which data you have, where it’s stored, and which regulatory frameworks are relevant.

Has an information management risk assessment been completed?

Risk assessment focuses on identifying data, how sensitive it is, and potential risks from improper handling. In addition to the data itself, an information management risk assessment will consider the policies, processes, and documentation your business has in place to minimize risks related to privacy, security, and regulatory compliance breaches.

Have we created and documented information management policies and processes?

Information management policies create a framework that allows business leaders and stakeholders to influence information management procedures throughout the company. However, policies and information management procedures must be documented to support training and adherence to best practices.

Are records stored with appropriate security and privacy controls?

Before partnering with an information management service, businesses should verify that data is stored in line with the company’s privacy and security policies and relevant regulatory standards. Your selected information management vendor should be happy to explain how their service helps you comply with HIPAA, FACTA, FERPA, GDPR, SOX, and other regulatory frameworks. You may also want to verify that the vendor’s systems comply with recognized information security standards, such as AICPA’s SOC 2. 

Information Access

Which systems are in place to ensure employees can access the data?

How will stakeholders access the data they need to do their jobs? Document management software should support search and low-friction delivery with minimal lead times.  For example, Access Unify™ Active File Service supports a digital-first environment that allows employees to access documents remotely via an online portal.

Does the information management software integrate with our existing tools?

An information management service should provide a portal for businesses to search and access their documents. However, many companies already use a document management system. If you would like to continue using that solution, ensure that your vendor’s remote information management system integrates your preferred software.

To learn more about integrated and effective information management and digital business transformation, contact an information management specialist today.

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