February 15, 2017 - When's the last time you reviewed your records retention policy (if you have one)? You should have a policy/process for records retention and should review it at least annually. This week's articles discuss why records retention is critical and can help you determine which records to keep and for how long, how to handle a retention schedule, and other issues of interest.
How long you must keep a document varies based upon the type of document that it is. Tossing (or deleting) some documents too soon can have serious consequences, ranging from disallowed tax deductions to sanctions for failure to comply with regulations. What should you do about all those documents without clearly defined retention periods? That answer varies, based on the nature of your business and your level of comfort with discarding items.
Generally speaking, if there is a standard that requires the creation of a certain type of documentation, there will be some corresponding requirement to retain those records for a period of time, even if that requirement is not expressly stated. The standards require recordkeeping to provide evidence of the effective operation and implementation of your program, the competency of your personnel, and audit requirements and results.
Records Management is like insurance-the benefits are not realized fully until you need to file a claim, or in the case of RM, retrieve information. And when it comes to retrieving information, it's important to consider three situations when sound policies and procedures can make a critical difference. All three involve vital records, which is any record in any format containing information that would be necessary for various reasons.
Records retention has always been about as sexy as Birkenstocks with socks. Even the nomenclature, retention, has an unsavory connotation, something better left to the clinically uptight. But recent legal actions have made document retention programs not just boring but risky. One wrong step can cost a company.
By implementing a process - email archiving -- that captures inbound and outbound email messages of our organization, we can protect ourselves against unwarranted claims by providing these digital records. Regulators and courts treat email messages as written documents. Managing these email messages as business records assures that we meet the burden of proof of regulations such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This regulation requires every corporate litigant to recognize, declare and produce emails in civil litigation.
These days, most businesses are required by law to retain confidential client information, along with employee or company data, for a minimal amount of time. But many types of documents eventually outlive their purpose, and holding onto them too long puts you at risk of a security breach and non-compliance with today's privacy legislation.
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