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Cheat Sheet

Records Management For Dummies

From Records Management For Dummies by Blake Richardson, CRM

Whether you’re a small business owner or work for global corporation, you deal with information every day — you receive it, you send it, you determine what’s relevant, and you make decisions, whether consciously or subconsciously, about what information to retain. That’s why records management — managing the flood of information you get every day — should be such an important part of your business strategy.

Benefits of Records Management

Properly managing your records can help you reduce operating expense, enhance customer service and ensure your company is in compliance with laws and regulation.

  • Reduce operating expense. Properly managing your records and information means that you only retain for a specific timeframe what you need for operational, legal, and compliance purposes and then appropriately dispose of it. This approach can eliminate the need to buy additional paper filing equipment and electronic storage. It can also reduce the cost of off-site record storage.

  • Enhance customer service. A good records management strategy ensures that you don’t retain unneeded information. This reduces the amount of clutter you have to search through. Being able to quickly locate the right information allows you to better serve your customers.

  • Legal and compliance. Implementing an effective records management program will allow you to identify records that are needed for legal and compliance purposes and ensure they are assigned the appropriate retention periods. This benefits organizations in the event of lawsuits, audits, and governmental inquiries.

Appraising Records and Managing Retention Scheduling

A fundamental part of a successful records and information management program is identifying what records and information your company possesses and then applying appropriate retention periods.

  • Records appraisal. There are different methods for appraising your records and information, including inventories, interviews, and questionnaires. Picking the right appraisal method for your organization is important. The appraisal allows you to identify what records and information the organization possesses and forms the basis for your company’s record retention schedule.

  • Retention schedule. The retention schedule is typically the most referenced records management program document. It allows employees to determine how long they should keep their records and information. Records Management For Dummies addresses three distinct retention schedule methods: departmental, functional, and big bucket.

Managing Records on Local and Network Drives

The amount of electronic information has grown exponentially over the past decade. Local (C: Drives) and network drives are becoming digital graveyards. An effective records management program will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to ensure that electronic files are properly managed.

  • Folder structures and names. Creating an electronic folder structure that meets the needs of each department and ensuring that the folders within the structure are logically named are critical for accurate electronic filing, retrieval, and file maintenance (clean-up).

  • File naming conventions. After you have created the proper electronic folder structure, it’s important to ensure that your files are also named in an appropriate manner. A rule of thumb for naming your files is that you should be able to determine the contents of a file without having to open it. This means avoiding cryptic names such as abbreviations, acronyms, and numbers.

  • Maintenance. It is important to regularly review your folders and files to determine what is no longer needed. Microsoft Windows allows you to determine the last access and modification dates of a file. This is a good starting point in determining whether a file can be deleted. However, employees should always reference the organization’s record retention schedule before deleting any files in order to determine if the file is eligible for deletion.

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