Electronic Records Management – How to Manage Your Records

Electronic Records Management – How to Manage Your Records

One of the major functions of an office administrator is document management. Though it seems that most people are moving towards electronic records management, the truth is that there’s no such thing as a completely paperless office. Following are a few ideas that will help you run a good records management system from the beginning to the end.

Consider the Types of Papers You are Handling: Electronic Records Management

First of all, before you can determine the best way to manage them, you must figure out what type of papers you are dealing with. Here are some things to ask:

  1. Are they confidential/legal documents?
  2. Can they sit in archives or do they need to be quickly accessible?
  3. Do you need them for market history research?
  4. Do they have a time limit after which they are no longer active/valid?
  5. Can you run it all on one system or do you need multiple?

Determine Which Office/Department the Papers are Relevant to

If you have multiple offices/departments in your business, be sure to speak with those departments and find out if they have any ideas for improving the efficiency of record keeping- or anything they would prefer to avoid.

Determine How Records will be Stored

While it’s true that electronic flies can be filed easily, in many cases, the physical copy also needs to be kept. You must determine the best option for keeping those on hand- here are a few ideas:

  • Upright files on shelf/cupboard
  • Upright filing cabinets
  • Sliding door/drawer systems
  • Pigeonhole
  • Satchel, envelope, box, etc.

You must decide if it needs to be a formal or flexible system- a large system is better formalized. Plus, you can organize everything in one central area or in localized filing centers.

Consider Advantages Vs. Disadvantages of Each System

When you are considering how to file your documents, think about the advantages and disadvantages of each one. For example, you will find that your storage is limited with upright files- but they’re easier to access- much like taking a book from the shelf on the library. Archive boxes offer more storage, but it’s much easier for papers to get out of order.

On the other hand, envelopes make a great “stash and forget” when it comes to simplified personalized filing- but can be difficult if you don’t organize the envelopes in a logical order.

Choose Your Filing Method

Once you have determined the needs of each of your filing sections, it’s time to figure out what method you want to use. You can organize the documents in alphabetical order, type of document, chronological order, and much more.

You can always use a combination of several types, but make sure that you consider the purpose of the document management. Do you need to keep them in order and archived- or is this information that you are still actively working with?

Choose the Method That’s Easiest

When you determine your filing method, consider also having these three things available:

  • Copies of the system method on the filing cabinet drawers or racks so people can read them and learn where things are.
  • A reference index that shows where information can be found when it’s needed- this is very useful for larger archives.
  • A history page where people sign the files out- and back in. If necessary include space where the individual can indicate what they did to the file (made copies, papers added/removed)

Always be Consistent

Try to create a system that will basically run itself. After all, there will be times when you are on vacation or tied up with something else and others will have to be able to keep things organized while you are out.

After Determining Your Method

Once you determine how you want to store your files, it’s time to do the following:

  • Purchase goods/equipment such as hole punches, archive boxes, staplers, storage equipment, and files.
  • Prepare your site to store files.
  • Gather all related papers and collate them in the proper order.
  • Make digital copies if necessary and save them to the proper electronic records management system. Be sure to add a layer of protection to them and save them as “read-only.”
  • File the physical documents in the proper file box and store them.
  • If necessary, make note of where the file was stored.

Consistently Maintain the Files

There are various ways that you can maintain your system- consider the following:

  • Get another file/box your files are getting too large or damaged
  • If the data is no longer current, archive and store them. If they are no longer needed and you can dispose of them, shred and recycle them.
  • For documents that are damaged, make a copy of the original and leave the copy in the file and place in a safe location. Sometimes, the integrity of the original is critical- label the copy and make a record of when it was done.
  • Keep your index up to date and refine the system as needed- make sure that anyone that needs to know is aware of the changes.
  • Make sure files are returned in the condition they left.
  • Do an audit each month to make sure you have all the files returned. This will also give you the chance to check for problems.

Congratulate Yourself

Once you have set up your system and everything is in good order, easily accessible and can be used by any of your staff, you can sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Keep in mind that in some cases, you can use electronic records management and you don’t really have to worry too much about physical copies. However, that’s not always feasible for all types of records- there are still cases where physical records must be kept and archived properly.

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