Friday, April 29, 2011

Document management best practices

Posted by Mark Brousseau

According to the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), there are more than 4.3 million secretaries and administrative assistants working in the United States. In honor of Administrative Professionals Day, celebrated on April 27, Cintas Corporation offered best practices to help administrative professionals implement a successful office-wide program to manage, maintain and protect confidential business documents.

"During the recession, downsizing has forced all office professionals to come together and work harder in the workplace,” said Marcia Peller, corporate office services manager, Cintas. “Ensuring business information remains secure, yet easily accessible is essential to the success of any business. This is best accomplished through an integrated program that involves all relevant stakeholders.”

Cintas’ best practices include:

1. Create a document retention schedule. All businesses have an abundance of documents and records to maintain, which can often be a daunting task. To maximize space efficiently and increase productivity, work with management and a legal consultant to identify a retention schedule based on legal requirements and internal company policies. Depending on the type of business, proactively learn and implement these retention guidelines to maintain an organized, uncluttered office.

2. Educate and engage employees. Once a retention schedule has been established, educate and train all employees to take a proactive role and follow protocol. Each year, update employees regarding any new legal requirements and encourage them to securely shred any documents that are no longer needed. This will save space to ensure current documents are easily accessible.

3. Store records offsite. If your company has a large volume of records with long retention periods but limited space, consider an offsite storage provider. This will free up space and keep confidential information out of the wrong hands. The ideal provider will offer a secure storage facility equipped with 24-hour security cameras, alarm systems and complete fire protection systems to protect records from catastrophes such as floods and fires.

4. Limit accessibility to records. Only personnel who require job-related access should be authorized to view records. Limiting accessibility is critical as every business retains some degree of confidential information regarding their employees and customers. Such information includes names, addresses, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and other account information. By enforcing these rules, administrative professionals can greatly reduce the threat of data breaches from employees and other unauthorized sources.

5. Digitally image critical files. Converting paper files and records to electronic documents can help businesses increase productivity, improve processes and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. From disaster recovery planning, to having immediate access to files, a digital imaging solution helps employees find what they need, when they need it. Consider working with a professional provider that provides secure document imaging and scanning services to gain immediate, real-time access to all critical files.

6. Implement a “shred-all” program. It is important to securely shred all unneeded documents. With identity theft and data breaches on the rise, doing so will protect confidential business data and customers’ sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. In addition, encourage employees to shred their personal information at work to protect their identity as well. Recommend a shredding service that destroys documents on a scheduled basis. These companies place secure shredding containers in accessible and identifiable locations to make it safe and convenient for all employees to properly shred documents that have reached the end of their useful life. In addition, they will provide a certificate of destruction for a legal audit trail.

7. Create an office recycling program. Ensure that your office or department is doing its part to protect the earth by encouraging and promoting a paper recycling program. Many companies that offer shredding services recycle the paper into secondary paper products, such as paper towels, to reduce the impact on the environment. Recycling paper saves water, reduces green house gas emissions and uses 25 percent less energy than manufacturing paper from trees.

“Administrative professionals work hard throughout the year to ensure their offices operate as efficiently as possible,” said Brittney Kirk, marketing associate, Cintas Document Management. “This Administrative Professionals Day, we want to recognize their efforts and provide them with best practices to help them securely protect and store confidential information to ensure business success.”

What do you think?

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