The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be generated globally each day—the equivalent of 212,765,957 DVDs daily.

As data usage continues to surge, so does the volume of records produced by businesses, such as forms, customer information, healthcare records, reports, contracts, and financial documents. These records are vital for enhancing productivity and maintaining customer, client, partner, and employee relationships. However, managing these records is a complex task that requires knowing what records exist and where they are located, to comply with policies and regulations. Due to time constraints, staffing, and budget, many organizations struggle to properly manage their ever-growing data troves.

Read on to discover how to take control of your records by knowing “what’s in the box” and ensure your organization achieves and maintains compliance.

The Importance of Inventory Management

Too often, records are discovered during an audit or litigation that should have been dispositioned months or years ago. And suddenly… you’re non-compliant.

This is why inventory management is essential. If your records inventory is not managed correctly, how can you ensure retention schedules and compliance policies are met? If you don’t know that you have a particular record, you can’t correctly destroy it, putting you at risk of over-retention. Without knowing what you have, you also can’t guarantee your records are secure, and only those with permissions can access files.

How to Take Inventory of Your Records and Gain Control

To achieve compliance, it’s imperative to inventory and control your records. Here are some critical steps to take and areas to review:

Digital and Physical Records

Industry research firm Gartner, Inc. found that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually. That’s not only a lot of paper, it’s also a considerable expense.

First, start by determining the scope of the inventory you want to gain control of. From there, based on the scope, conduct a thorough inventory analysis that pulls all available data in both paper and digital formats so you can understand the volume and variety of your records. Once the analysis is complete, you can assess the documents, digital files, and other records under your management, review where they are in their lifecycle, and remove duplicate copies (as well as cut down on paper).

Next, compare and contrast your inventory analysis with that of your software vendor to ensure that all records are accounted for. This process, called data reconciliation, highlights discrepancies or gaps in your records inventory and helps you rectify them. Reconciliation is critical for maintaining data integrity.

Controlled Access

Do employees have access to the records they need… and only the records they need?

Records management software makes it easy for employees to retrieve files, but it also allows businesses to control who can see what. Ensure that your software provides access permissions for digital records, and work with your vendor to set permissions for physical records stored off-site. Create a comprehensive chain of custody to determine how your records are used and by whom.

Metadata and Indexing

Together, metadata and indexing ensure records are identifiable, searchable, and manageable, which is necessary for compliance.

Metadata provides essential details about each file, such as account number, creation date, or even disposition instructions, giving context and relevance. Indexing categorizes these files, creating a structured, searchable database that enhances efficiency. This systematic approach not only saves time but also supports regulatory requirements and information governance standards by mitigating the risk of data loss or mismanagement.

Implications of Non-Compliance

Compliance is the key to records management success.

Records managers are facing increasingly complex information security policies for digital and paper records. These policies apply to information stored onsite, offsite, or in the cloud throughout your organization.

With the regulatory environment continuing to evolve rapidly as privacy concerns are amplified by today’s digital world, adhering to a strict retention schedule is essential to any records management strategy. It dictates how long different types of records should be kept, how they should be maintained, and secure methods for destruction. Legal requirements, accountability standards, and the organization’s specific needs guide these schedules.

When your organization fails to comply with information governance policies, you risk:

  • Fraud, theft, or abuse of customer or company information and other security breach consequences.
  • Exposure to significant fines, penalties, and legal liabilities, including over-retention.
  • Significant harm to your brand reputation, client trust, and customer loyalty.

Wrapping it up

Not knowing what documents you have can lead to serious non-compliance issues because you can’t properly destroy records you didn’t know existed. By taking these steps, you can ensure you have a complete picture of your organization’s records. Then, the next time your organization is audited or needs to produce a specific record for legal purposes, you can be confident there won’t be any unfortunate surprises.

For help taking control of your physical and digital records, applying metadata and indexing, and ensuring controlled access to documents, start a conversation with us today about Access Unify™ | Active File Service.

Access Unify™ | Active File Service transforms your work experience by eliminating the need to hunt down a file. For a fixed monthly fee, Access Unify™ | Active File Service features digitization, indexing, and metadata application of critical files with industry-leading digital delivery.

Transform Your Records Management Today!