Records management—the process of storing and organizing the documents and emails or record from the time they’re created to the time they are no longer needed—has always been an important part of the functional running of almost any organization. But, what if your organization happened to be crucial to the running of something much bigger than a regular workplace, and your responsibilities extended beyond your team to thousands of people?
This is the case for many public sector workers and civil servants who work in local councils and government-backed associations every day. The information, files, emails, letters and other correspondence and documents they receive daily need to be looked after with a special kind of care. For these councils and organizations—just like other high-stakes bodies: hospitals, financial service institutions, etc.—a watertight records management policy is of the upmost importance.
The essential practice
Every organization (both public and private) deals with a trove of information on a daily basis, which builds up over the months and years. This is especially true for data that has to be managed long-term, whether that comes from internal or external sources. So, a strong records management policy is just as important for the internal records as it is for the public-facing side of things. Sensitive information like contract negations and other personal information needs to be kept private and secure.
For government agencies, information management can be a long-term issue. Take, for example, the merging of the City and County Council of Waterford, Ireland. A heavily regulated public service assembly, certain records here often need to be kept for 30-40 years, others, potentially, need to be stored for hundreds. One of the big issues here was the need to address how staff in the council used email with regard to document management. For example, there was a need to educate them that emails are actually documents of record and can be requested in court if required.
If all of this sounds like it should go without saying, then that’s because it should. But there are sometimes mitigating circumstances that can result in poor procedures being carried out or mistakes being made. Even if there are justifiable reasons for mistakes being made, the consequences can still affect large groups of people all at once. Mistakes and oversights can result in:
- A loss of important personal records
- A decrease in public trust/loss of reputation
- Compliance penalties
- Poor delivery of services
- A snowball of inadequacy across other areas of service
The focus of our post today is to draw your attention to specific mistakes that teams and departments should work to avoid in an order to make sure their records management policy is as functional as possible.
Failure to train employees
Onboarding new staff can be a complicated and sometimes elongated task that gets swallowed up in the day-to-day deadlines and more short-term priorities of the organization. But if your employees are not well versed on essential records management procedures, how can you expect them not to make mistakes or oversights?
These mistakes could derail other aspects of your organization’s procedures. If you want your information managed to the necessary standard, then educating and training employees across the organization as soon as possible should be given high priority.
Ignoring data stores
Making sure your employees know where specific file kinds are supposed to be stored is a big part of any management policy. But just because your team knows where files should be sent doesn’t mean they always follow best practice. How many times have you seen a piece of information in your inbox that you consider to be important (or think at least it might be) and yet you decide to leave it lying in the email client? The issue? See our next mistake.
Taking technology for granted
Assuming a file or document will be stored automatically is a dicey game to play – especially when the content is of high importance. The amount of technology we use every day in all aspect of our lives can lead us to being complacent about its abilities. Email is a good example of this. For most of us, knowing a file, document, or important piece of correspondence (a response to a question, for example) is sitting in our inbox is enough to believe that the information is safely stored. However, if you’ve ever needed to find a specific email at the final hour, when deadlines are looming, you’ll understand what it means to take technology for granted. harmon.ie’s email management solution allows you to store emails from Outlook directly to SharePoint, meaning you can easily find emails when you need them most.
Underestimating the importance of the information
This is a natural follow on from correct training. Sometimes you can be trained well and still make a mistake. It’s not unthinkable that a piece of information about a project might get lost in the slew of instant messages, emails, document exchanges and other back-and-forth we send and receive every day. This is where Collage, which recently won the 2016 CTIA Emerging Technology Award will help. Collage automatically analyzes correspondence in Outlook and extracts important topics so you can see the big picture; correspondence, application records, as well as related documents, so you have everything to do with the topic all in one place. So, even if you did underestimate its importance, the information won’t get lost.
The unsung hero
Document and information management isn’t always seen as the most glamourous of organizational procedures. Some members of staff may feel it unnecessary or even a waste of time. But really, it’s a foundational aspect of any well-run establishment and making it a priority will save you in the short term as well as the long term.
To find out more about how harmon.ie’s solutions could help your organization, get in contact today.