Taming Your Paper: What to Keep, What to Toss

Topics: Govern Information | Secure Shredding

You can dig out from under the paper pile in no time: Just follow the steps in this smart records storage guide to benefit from advances in image capture, coding and analytics.

FAST FACT: 27% of respondents to an AIIM study report an increasing need for paper.

DID YOU KNOW? 68% of those participating in the Iron Mountain Compliance Benchmark Report, A View Into Unified Records Management, are using imaging throughout their organization.

You’re doing business in a more litigious environment than ever.  And lawsuits aside, there’s always the possibility of compliance audits. Before you lose or unwittingly destroy data essential to fulfilling discovery or audit requests, take the time to organize what you need—and toss the rest. To develop and execute a thoughtful records storage strategy, make some time on your Q1 calendar to take these critical steps to harness your paper tiger.

Step 1: Stare down your dead-tree demons, then choose their fate. Look at your paper records with a cold, hard eye. Determine what’s essential to keep close at hand for running your business, and what you must store for quick access to meet legal and/or regulatory obligations.

Step 2: Take that paper to a new dimension with scanning. More paper is coming in every day—a recent AIIM Market Intelligence report found that 27 percent of respondents are actually using more than they used to. To keep up, start moving some paper files to a more easily indexed and searchable format by scanning and digitizing them.

Step 3: Leverage indexing to make digitizing pay off. You need a classification system that indexes every record, whether paper or electronic, using descriptors such as record type, author, subject matter and date created. Your colleagues can then more easily search for and locate information.

Step 4: Establish—and maintain—document retention and destruction schedules. Remember, “if it exists, it is discoverable.” Any document you don’t destroy could be included in a legal action. If you examine regulatory requirements and create a compliant records management strategy, you’ll know what information to keep and for how long.

Step 5: Put everything in its right place. You can’t keep stuffing paper into the back room or leaving it in an administrative assistant’s cubicle. Consider adding dedicated storage space—offsite, onsite or both. But no matter where they reside, all records must be tagged for eventual destruction and must maintain compliance.

Get to Know This Tech Trio

Sure, these steps still may sound daunting, but meeting them has become easier as technology continues to mature—particularly in these three areas. Consider them as you build your sound records storage strategy:

1. Imaging’s improved eyesight.

Long gone are the days of feeding a flatbed scanner and hoping its OCR software could read at least a sizeable chunk of the text.

Now, thanks to one-pass duplex capture through automatic feeders, you can quickly and efficiently capture and process document images. A well-equipped scanner can automatically adjust contrast, brightness and other image-quality elements. Leading software packages work with a growing number of such scanners. The boon here is that together, they can generate documents compatible with many content management systems.

What’s more, the latest capture software packages provide for not only OCR but also barcode recognition, handwriting/printing recognition (ICR), mark recognition (OMR), forms recognition, and data match and merge.

2. Coding: The DNA of a document's lifecycle.

As you capture data for scanning, you can also set up your system to identify the converted record for proper indexing. Use such tags as record type, author and other identifiers, or designate access authorizations. You can even mark documents for destruction based on your designated retention parameters.

3. Big Data: driving analytics.

It’s more important than ever to understand your data and help your business run efficiently with tools that analyze both structured and unstructured data. Analytics can vastly improve collaboration while calling out information gaps that can create security vulnerabilities. As you digitize, applying analytics is that much easier.

Now you know what you need to do. As you make your scan plan, consider getting guidance from a trusted partner with expertise in information management, imaging and storage. When you collaborate with an expert to set up your plan, you might actually be able to block off some dates on that Q1/Q2 agenda for some well-deserved R&R.

Iron Mountain Recommends:

Let Your Partner Do the Heavy Lifting

The right partner can bring know-how to your records storage strategy and help you dig out from under the paper pile. A trusted vendor can:

  • Integrate imaging into other applications, processes and technology to generate more complete records while improving indexing and retrieval capabilities.
  • Consolidate your physical storage and scanning functions into a single operation while maintaining complete control and visibility.
  • Convert your physical records on demand to scale back reliance on those physical records.
  • Comply with regulatory requirements to make sure your records are handled properly and that you satisfy regulatory requirements.
  • Stay abreast of scanning advances to update your program and improve the likelihood that your e-records strategy will fit into and enhance your records management strategy.

Do you have questions about information management? Read additional Knowledge Center Small Business resources, or contact Iron Mountain’s Small Business team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services Small Business specialist who can address your specific challenges.

Related News:

Financial Services Firms: Accounting for Social Media

A 101 Guide to Defining Social Media Records

Records Management Best Practices: Let SharePoint 2010 Help