When the Auditor Calls, How Fast Can You Answer?
August 23, 2011
It's crunch time and an internal audit requires important records. In the race to find that critical information, how will your firm measure up?
It's time for your annual internal audit. Email requests for supporting documents are piling up in the records department's inbox, while your financial analysts are frantically tapping at their keyboards trying to satisfy the auditors' requests. The search is on!
Can records personnel quickly deliver on all those requests?
Every extra minute an employee spends searching for a document could cost your company—in dollars and productivity. Consider these findings: A 2010 Department of Labor study revealed that a business could spend as much as $11,500 annually per administrative support person and about $28,500 per manager on simple hard-copy management. For a company of 500 employees, that's approximately $10 million spent annually in this area.
Iron Mountain customer surveys also point to hard-copy management's negative impact on productivity. Professionals polled report spending literally half of their work hours searching for mission-critical information. What's more, 81% have expressed some concern about their ability to access their companies' contract files.
The bottom line: Your records need to be in order and easily accessible. Quite simply, demands on records departments have never been greater.
Where Do You Stand?
If you're like most companies, your records exist in both paper and electronic form, as you've begun the long process of digitizing paper records and improving file-retrieval efficiencies dramatically. Faster searches yield:
- Compliance. Your company probably feels the heat from state and federal regulations, in addition to legal discovery and audit requests. It's easier meeting those requirements when you can count on more reasonable search-and-retrieval times. [Check out our Compliance Advisor]
- Greater Efficiency. Building more complete files and accessing them more quickly spreads an infectious form of efficiency throughout your enterprise—areas like customer service and order fulfillment, to name a couple. [Check out our Efficiency Advisor]
- Increased productivity and reduced costs. The faster you find a record, the more likely you're relieving a colleague the burden of extended search times. This frees them to focus on their core jobs and more mission-critical tasks. [Check out our Finance Advisor]
Speed It Up
Take the following steps to cut your records retrieval times to a more desirable rate:
Identify vital records. Flag mission-critical information and give it top indexing, storage and access priority.
Pare out unnecessary, dead or least used files. Non-essential information is nothing more than to move off the “active” list.
Destroy unneeded records. Ensure that your company routinely trashes extraneous, redundant or unnecessary records. And stay on the schedule!
Develop a hybrid records management strategy incorporating both paper and electronic records. Electronic records are promising, but paper is here to stay for at least the next few years.
Scan, scan, scan. Paper may thrive, but you don't have to be a slave to it. If you haven't already, begin the process of converting paper documents. Start with the most-used files, including those germane to compliance or operational processes.
Tag documents in a file with a tracking number. This ensures that a record's parts are filed together for easy retrieval. A trusted vendor partner can supply bar codes for you to affix to stored files.
Use a desktop upload tool that lets users store converted digital documents in a single location. This gives them some control and responsibility—which is smart because they are also the people who most frequently access documents.
Keep it user-friendly. Develop a system with simplified document management and search capabilities. Want the staff to actually use it? Well then the easier it is, the better.
Allow simultaneous access by multiple users—avoid queuing users up to access what they need.
Outsource records storage. Unless you have a great deal on storage space and don't mind hiring a large in-house records staff, consider teaming up with a trusted partner. You box the files, affix them with bar codes and call your partner to pick them up. They're out of your hair and out of the way until an audit or legal discovery request calls for their retrieval.
Hire a Records Manager. Searches will go faster with someone in charge and accountable. A records manager protects the chain of custody of legal discovery and audit information as well as other requests; coordinates and oversees discovery and audit requests and assesses your strategy to recommend future upgrades.
So what are you waiting for? If you implement the steps above, you'll be playing in the lightning round soon enough and reaping the many benefits of faster searches.
Do you have more questions about records management options and how to find information faster? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or Contact Iron Mountain's consulting services team. You'll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your information management challenges.
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The Need for Speed: Your Questions
The faster you can access records, the more your company will gain.
Q: Will we meet compliance requirements?
A: The work you put into making records more accessible will translate into faster, easier compliance with federal and state regulatory mandates.
Q: Where will we become more efficient?
A: Everywhere! As you cut retrieval times, you'll build greater efficiencies into your processes.
Q: How can we save?
A: Start with the money you'll save on fines not imposed for failure to comply promptly with regulatory demands. Add the savings you'll achieve from avoiding delays in fulfilling legal discovery requests and retrieving hard-to-find or misfiled information.
Speed Up the Search Process: The Checklist
- Identify records important to your business. First, assess which records are vital to your business operations. Then give storage, indexing and access priority to these.
- Adopt a document imaging strategy. Move records from paper to electronic form at a pace that's amenable to your business needs.
- Implement a Day-Forward plan. Scan documents as they are created, integrating this effort with your scanning program.
- Develop tiered management processes. Not all records are created equal. Determine what to digitize, what to store and how to access relevant documents easily.
- Be ready to establish a strong, healthy relationship with your records management vendor. This position should seamlessly fit into the flow of your records management strategy and work in partnership with a trusted vendor.
Feature: Records Managers, Apply Within
Document Management Briefing: Brother, Can You Spare a File?
It All Adds Up: The Positive Effects of Smart Information Management