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BY ALEX SCOTT

Given the importance of data in the way the world does business in the digital age, managing data, and by definition, managing documents, is a critical factor for every business. GDPR has also been a game changer for many  businesses. It is essential to ensure that your company doesn’t fall foul of data breaches or non-compliance. To avoid this, companies need robust document management systems. The correct in-house systems and procedures ensure that everything is covered when it comes to your documentation and that you are fully compliant.

Here’s how you can keep a records management plan running smoothly in nine practical steps.

1. Recognise the need and appoint a team with experience and a broad range of skills
To ensure that everything is under control and company files and documents are not in danger of being hacked, you need to have a strategic plan, which is implemented by a centrally based team with a wide skill set.  This team  should know your business in depth, and where possible, they should come from as many departments as possible. That way, they will all have an accurate picture of how data and electronic files are managed company wide and won’t forever be amending the plan to meet the needs of different departments.

2. Define your system procedures in a way everyone understands
Communication is key. There’s no point in having one of the most technically advanced document management systems that only a handful of people can decipher. You may well have produced the smartest, most innovative  approach for storing documents, but if people don’t know how to use it, then it’s just not going to have much of an impact on the way you do things. Simplicity is often the best solution, so look for ways to reduce the steps involved so that duplication of effort is removed wherever possible. It might not feel like a notable change now, but when you have hundreds of people following the plan for years, it can soon add up to a massive difference in  productivity and performance.

3. Create a clear plan of action and an example schedule
To get the project underway and archive each electronic document, you’re going to need to state your plan of action clearly. By outlining succinctly what you’re planning to do, you’ll be able to identify the pinch points where  you need to adjust your approach. If there is a lack of clarity and vagueness in the process, it will become a problem later on. The trick is to keep things as simple as possible. Just because it’s a powerful system that’s doing  something significant doesn’t mean that it has to be unnecessarily complicated for the sake of it. In fact, as it is going to be a common platform in daily use by all departments, it needs to be as efficient as possible as you implement the changes. Once you have the outline of your management plan in place, you can commence the project by uploading your existing data and documents into it. This is the optimum time to identify any inaccuracies  hat may have gone unnoticed, at this point it’s crucial to get things right if you want to create a joined up solution. If your old files and new files are managed in two incompatible ways, then all that’s going to do is create unnecessary extra work which is highly wasteful.

4. Remove any redundant documents to streamline your resources
This is the ideal time to remove any unnecessary records, such as legacy or duplicate documents. It will save time integrating them into the new plan, and it will free up storage space. Just what you need when you want your data and information to be easily searchable and accessible.

5. Look into safe disposal and storage of all documentation All sensitive or confidential documents should be disposed of appropriately.
This could be by hiring a specialist, confidential shredding company to remove paper copies or using your inhouse tech team to wipe old backups and hard drives. No matter what combination of these you need, you need to ensure that you follow all of the rules and regulations to the letter.

6. Perform a realistic test of your new management plan
It’s important to ensure that your plan is robust. Evaluating and testing it is something that some managers may be reluctant to do, and for a good reason – they don’t want it to fail. While you may understandably feel that a  ailed test is a massive step backward, it is prudent to identify the key issues and problems as early as possible. You should take the view that any form of testing creates the opportunity to validate and improve the system, rather than to cast doubt on the ability of the people who created it. That way, you’ll end up with a fully effective solution that will stand the test of time.

7. Implement a training plan
When the system is satisfactorily operational, the next step it to implement the training and upskilling for every user. This can be phased to meet the needs of the business. Once everyone is up to speed, the business will transition to the next level without you even realising it.

8. Schedule regular maintenance and refresher sessions
Regular maintenance and refresher sessions are essential if you want to get the most out of the initial investment of time, effort, and money. There should also be a periodic upgrading of your infrastructure and procedures so  hat the system can evolve in parallel with the business objectives. This will ensure that all users know how to use the processes that are in place and progress with the business as it moves forward.

9. Learn from your mistakes,  so your systems always improve It is inevitable that mistakes will happen, no matter how well prepared you are. When errors in the system occur, the key thing is to own them, identify them, and then fix the errors that caused them. If you do these three things, you’ll have a solution that is continuously improving, and will deliver many benefits for the company.

Key takeaways
This straightforward, step-by-step guide outlines how to get your document management programme up and running, but to be clear, it’s managements responsibility to implement it – after all, it’s a regulatory requirement. With an initiative-taking approach, and strategic planning, you’ll be heading in the right direction in no time. Exactly what you need when you want to build your business on a robust and solid foundation. Often, it is easier said than done to implement change and this is where Auditel can help.