10 Tips for Creating a Document Retention Policy

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10 Tips for Creating a Document Retention Policy

The Importance of a Document Retention Policy 

There is no doubt that technology has allowed document retention to become easier than ever before. For many business leaders, this has led to numerous questions concerning what information actually needs to be retained,how to go about archiving that information,
and the length of time that these records need to be kept. There is also a need to balance the costs of electronic or physical document retention with the need to ensure that the data is stored properly to remain in compliance with new regulations and legal requirements, all while minimizing the risks of security breaches and lost data. All of these concerns are valid, and provide insight into the importance of creating and maintaining a strong document retention policy.

Things to Consider When Planning a Document Retention Policy

  • Clearly Define Business Retention Requirements:  The document retention policy should clearly define business retention requirements, and the solutions needed to accommodate them. It should clearly list the types of documents that your organization needs to retain for both customer service and legal reasons. Additionally, each listing should explain the best methods of cataloging and capturing each document type, and whether that is conducted through scanning, uploading, physical storage and the like.
  • Outline the Processes Required for Implementation:  Outline the processes needed to implement a policy that fits into the technological framework of your organization. For example, if your business compiles a majority of business related documents on servers or cloud storage, there are specific policies that will need to be introduced and followed to ensure that the information is stored correctly. If your company relies on physical storage, the processes will need to include the best methods of preparing the documents for storage so that your business remains in compliance with applicable record-keeping guidelines.
  • Ongoing Monitoring of the Retention Process to Ensure Compliance and Effectiveness: The monitoring process should clearly indicate a specific timeline for comparing current practices to current compliance regulations to ensure that older retention practices are still in line with current standards. Additionally, the processes for documenting, storing, or scanning will need monitoring to ensure that the best practices are still providing the best retention results for all required information.

 Document Retention Policy Planning Checklist 

As a business leader trying to balance internal business policies with regulations and requirements, it is more important than ever to create a document retention policy to protect your business.  Here is a checklist to help your organization institute a policy that meets your internal and external records management needs.

  1. An evaluation of business needs, applicable regulations, and litigation requirements.
  2. Outline capturing methods needed to ensure the preservation of relevant documents. Finding a reliable data archiving provider will take the complexity out of records management & also satisfies D3P (Designated Third Party) requirements for regulated businesses.
  3. Records classifications- Beyond indexing & meta data which happens with archiving, classifying records speeds search by narrowing down locations where valuable information may reside
  4. Retention period determinations and destruction guidelines for each record classification.  This is especially important in regulated industries.
  5. Justification of policy requirements is important as it offers an added layer of defense in the event of litigation.
  6. Document auditing processes to ensure the correct procedures are followed throughout the organization.
  7. Include a methodology for training staff in the appropriate use of the policy, as well as the ramifications for failing to follow it properly. A log should also be kept listing all training and noting when any updates are made to the retention policy.
  8. Set periodical review processes to ensure ongoing compliance. The policy should be reviewed periodically to ensure it’s up to date with applicable record-keeping regulations.
  9. Have complete documentation of the policy, including how it will be implemented, audited, and maintained.
  10. Accessibility requirements and allowances such as who can destroy documents or who will have access.  The key to this tip is transparency.

At Patrina, we understand the strain that compliant records management puts on organizations and we are passionate about helping businesses gain control over their records. Our easy-to-use records management platform helps businesses to enforce document retention policies with advanced supervisory tools and consolidates records across the enterprise for improved information governance.  Learn more by contacting the data experts at Patrina and receive a free consultation today.