There’s a lot to be said for good intentions. Of course they’re applauded, of course they’re a great place to start, yet, I hear they pave the path to hell. A nightmarish, costly, inefficient, disorganised hell. It’s an easy trap to fall in to: setting out with the best of intentions yet tripping yourself up when it comes to following through. You may even get to the planning stage!

However, planning is not quite enough if you want to see desirable outcomes in your workplace. ZircoDATA can help you back up your good intentions, with real results. We can turn your furtive plans in to an effective reality, one that works to make the most of your organisation’s processes.

There are a few steps you can follow to ensure your plans for a working records management program are successfully implemented. ZircoDATA recommends the following as a guide to help you establish your program:

1. Start with a policy

An effective Records Information Management (RIM) policy is crucial. Your RIM policy will be the focal point from which all other processes will flow, setting both the standard and direction for your business. It should outline compliant retention and secure destruction of information, establish secure processes, uphold the latest industry standard and be communicated thoroughly throughout your organisation alongside sufficient training for all employees.

Failing to manage a successful policy, you are likely to face multitudinous and unnecessary complications. For example, staff may find it difficult to locate the right information, in a timely manner. Or, you may experience a data security breach, which at the very least could lead to reputational loss and at worst could lead to expensive and embarrassing litigation. It’s crucial you place your business in the best possible position to handle sensitive information and achieve best practice.

2. Create a fool-proof retention plan

Retain the right records, for the right amount of time. Doing so will allow you to manage your intellectual property, control record storage costs and assist staff in their productivity. Quite simply, it’s easier to find and manage information that is stored sensibly and appropriately. It’s important to establish a multi-layered and strategic information retention system as well as a timeline reflective of the retention schedule of all records.

Some additional pointers:

  • You need to identify all records and their locations.
  • Your records retention guidelines should be applicable to all records no matter their degree of risk or sensitivity.
  • Retention guidelines need to be updated regularly – every 12-18 months – to either meet or exceed local market regulation and industry standards

3. Improve your indexing and access procedures

Not enough organisations know where their information is, which is a crucial misstep in effective records management.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2010 Global State of Information Security Study, only 46% of Australian respondents could state their organisations maintained an accurate inventory of where high-value data was stored.

Smart indexing includes:

  • Access authorisation – ensuring sensitive information is only accessible by employees with the appropriate level of authorisation.
  • Classification – ensuring every record is classified under areas such as subject, author, business sector, date and any other types you deem necessary.
  • A connected retention schedule – the information classification system should be seamlessly connected to the retention schedule to ease the process of knowing what needs to be destroyed and when.

4. Prioritise privacy, always

As clearly mandated by law, it is imperative for you to take care and manage the privacy of your records. Privacy protection policies must be maintained even when information or sensitive records are due for destruction. Principle 11 of the Australian Privacy Principles requires organisations to take reasonable steps to destroy or permanently de-identify personal information if it is no longer needed for any purpose.

5. Maintain accountability

Reviewing your RIM policy should be a regular and organic addition to your internal audit process. It’s important to define, measure, communicate and report the audit requisites to avoid vulnerability or unpreparedness at the time of any external audit or regulatory assessment. Inclusive within your internal audit should be a system of checks and balances.

Taking care of these five aspects of Records Management is the first step in implementing a fool-proof strategy. Each of these aspects are integral in maintaining effective, low-risk, low-cost processes.

But wait, there’s more! Below we’ve provided some handy hints in implementing the strategy that works best for you:

  • Organise every document – both paper and digital. This way, you’ll be able to maintain control and accessibility throughout your records management process.
  • Ensure that your information is accessible whenever you need it.
  • Apply an effective RIM policy that guarantees operational smoothness and absolute compliance.

From policies and plans, to privacy and accountability, ZircoDATA can assist you every step of the way. To find out more, contact us via this link or feel free to email us, services@zircodata.com.au or call on 13 ZIRCO.