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Record-keeping is an essential part of many business types today. Whether you work in a medical office, university, legal firm or other institution, managing the forms that keep these businesses running is often a full-time job in itself. At times, the amount of paperwork generated by the organization can appear overwhelming. Common problems faced by record management may be alleviated by having systems in place to handle them.
Lost records can range from a minor inconvenience for businesses to an enormous hassle that takes months, or even years, to resolve. For instance, if clients request documents from the company on a regular basis and you are unable to provide them in a timely manner (or at all), you risk the loss of their business in the future. If important records are needed for a legal matter, such as defending the company against a lawsuit, not supplying the appropriate documents can cost huge sums of money, or even mean the dissolution of the business entirely. One way to avoid losing records is to have a detailed organization and storage process.
Proper file organization is one of the cornerstones of good record management. Typically, companies organize files chronologically by year and then alphabetically by name of client. In addition to hard copies of your company's records, electronic storage is a viable option that saves both space and time that your business can put to other uses. However, even if you elect to save the majority of valuable files on your organization's computers, hard copies have their place in record storage and organization. Original documents, such as those with notarized signatures, often need to be kept for a certain number of years or, sometimes, indefinitely.
Depending upon the type of business for which you keep records, as well as how long the company has operated, you may find yourself running out of space for all of the file cabinets worth of forms you must keep. A potential solution to this problem is not to keep any extraneous records. Consider how long your business really needs to have these forms on hand. For federal tax purposes, the majority of documents can be disposed of after a specified period of time, as directed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), depending on the type of return filed (see the Resources section). Different businesses, such as legal and medical offices, are required to keep client information for only a set number of years, depending upon the state in which they operate. Another solution is to store records at a separate facility, such as a rental storage unit. This way, they do not take up valuable space on the premises of your business that you could use to run the organization. Keep in mind, however, that such units can be costly depending upon the number of records you need to store.
- "Enterprise Content Management Best Practices;" Daniel Allen; 2008