Effective Records Management in Today’s Business Environment

Introduction

Successful enterprises have come to rely on information as a major internal asset to leverage or as a lucrative product to sell. There is increasing public scrutiny regarding the need for corporate leaders to assure that business information in the form of records can be trusted, protected and produced when required. The importance of properly managing business records is covered in news sources almost daily, including the failure of some organizations to retain records for mandated time periods (Arthur Andersen) and the discovery in some cases of reputationdamaging emails (Microsoft and many others). Regrettably, litigation frequently is a tactic used to resolve disputes between persons and organizations. Governmental investigations routinely are initiated when audits yield findings of non-compliance with expected business practices or activities. In both of these scenarios, there is an immediate focus on how well management supported the proper retention and timely production of records, in either paper or electronic format. 

The default assumption is that employees perform job functions as delineated by policy, procedure and management directives.

Executive level attention to records management strategies, policies, procedures, and technology systems now is the expected practice in well-run organizations. Executive signatures required on financial statements by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) make it critical to manage enterprise information and evidentiary records in a well-documented and consistent manner. Each organization’s value chain and information workflow must have supporting records management activities and auditable business processes that clearly document the status of activities; i.e., what is known, and when everyone knew it. A carefully developed records management strategy and rigorously enforced company information management policies are the key to achieving excellence in management that promotes customer, investor, regulator, employee and public confidence in an organization’s activities, products, and services.

Business Drivers for Records Management

Today’s complex business environments generate numerous challenges for both management and employees. Fast-paced changes in office technologies, changing governmental mandates and global competition create both obstacles and opportunities. However, a common aspect of all business environments is the constant demand for ontime access to data, information and documentation. Informational business records are needed for operational guidance, reporting to auditors, documentation of intellectual capital, evidence in litigation and a variety of other tactical and strategic drivers. Business records with critical informational content must be locatable and retrievable quickly and accurately. Otherwise lost productivity, public embarrassment and damaged financial status may result. Of equal importance is the transition of most enterprises today from sifting through piles of paper to managing gigabytes of data. This shift creates a mandate for an enterprise to control and manage its office.  

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