March 17, 2016

How to Set a Document Management Policy in Stone – and Why You Should

It's a huge challenge to keep up with all the paperwork and electronic files that are generated by a workplace without a document management solution.

“It generally starts slowly — an email here, a receipt there, incoming invoices and customer correspondence,” said an office products spokesperson. “But before you know it, you've got a mountain of paper and no way to find the documents you need."

A Price Waterhouse study cited in a story reported that it took several paralegals 67 hours to search through 10,000 documents to find 15 documents. The same search, using document management technology, found 20 documents in 4.5 seconds.

Efficiency isn’t the only reason why all workplaces are being urged to implement a structured document management policy.

A document management solution for organizing paper and digital files can help protect confidential information. Federal, state and other privacy regulations direct the safekeeping of information. Non-compliance can lead to a security breach and other damages including penalties and fines.

What makes a document management procedure work?

  • Leadership: Create a designated leadership role to oversee document management whether it is one person from each department or the office manager if it’s a small business.
  • Consistency: When everyone in the company uses a standard method for storing and labelling documents, it is easier to create, file, and find important documents. In many cases, parameters are set by privacy laws that define confidential information in documents, and direct who should have access to them and how they should be kept and for how long. Step one of implementation is to catch-up to all the existing documents including multiple versions of the same document. Then, all new documents should be managed according to the procedures.  
  • Communication: After a formal company-wide introduction to new document management procedures, the company should hold smaller more function-specific training sessions for each department. Use internal marketing to address any resistance to change – post reminders where document processes take place. Explain any repercussions for violations.
  • Workplace Support: Put systems in place that support the document management policy. For example, utilize secure file sharing protocols. Implement a Shred-it-all Policy to reduce the risk of human error in terms of which paperwork should be shredded. For disposal, partner with a document destruction company that provides secure on or off-site shredding services.
  • Be Clear About Retention: To remain compliant, regulated industries must stay on top of record-keeping legislation as changes are made and new bills introduced.    
  • Purging: Clear out old documents regularly too. Save a file only if it's relevant to work activity, or there’s a legal requirement.
  • Destruction: Make sure all documents to be destroyed are securely stored in locked consoles. Partner with a professional destruction service that has a secure chain of custody and provides a Certificate of Destruction for legal proof. Securely dispose of dated floppy disks, cassette tapes and hard drives too.

The Document Management Solutions Ebook is a free guide to best practices for implementing a document management policy.