The ultimate guide to records management systems

Learn about the different types of records management systems, their key features, and how these systems can improve efficiency, automating workflows in the process.

Written by

Brenda Prowse

Reviewed by

Adam Roberts
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In a recent study, 60% of employees said they spend more time digging through files than they do in replying to emails. With this alarming statistic in mind, it's no surprise that document-related challenges cost organizations $19,732 per worker yearly while contributing to a 21.3% loss in total productivity.

If these figures reveal anything, how you store, preserve, and manage your records matters. Spacious filing cabinets and outdated computer folders can no longer cope with the thousands of documents businesses create, access, and manage weekly. 

In the digital age, organizations need a robust record management system (RMS) if they hope to keep up. While it's common to think record management is all about storing your documents, this couldn't be further from the truth. 

A great RMS handles everything, from creation and classification to record retention, disposal, and retrieval, to ensure your sensitive data is secure, organized, and compliant with regulatory standards. 

As experts in the field, we’ve been helping businesses govern their data and streamline their record management processes for over 15 years. I've seen the transition from clunky file cabinets to innovative cloud-native solutions and understand many businesses' information management challenges.

Let's explore what a records management system is and how it can help make your business more efficient, productive, and compliant.

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What is a records management system (RMS)?

A record management system (RMS) is an end-to-end solution that helps your business create, control, manage, and ensure the safe disposal of records throughout the data lifecycle. 

You could think of it as the world's most complex filing cabinet, where every record, from digital documents to databases, is sorted, categorized, and secured to be easily accessible whenever required.

Related: Benefits of centralized data records management

Why is an RMS important?

The primary advantage of a record management system is that it can categorize and sort documents and data automatically. Whether classifying and categorizing documents, enforcing access, or disposing of redundant data, a records management system empowers a business to improve its efficiency, save money, and gain an edge over the competition.

How can an RMS benefit my business?

Let’s review a few advantages an RMS can bring to your business and why record management systems are crucial for organizations. Here are just a handful of their benefits:

End-to-end control

Record management systems give you complete control over your digital files, allowing you to easily create, identify, retrieve, and safely dispose of your documents. This streamlines your workflow and fosters a proactive, organized approach to information governance.

Complete compliance

Dozens of regulatory requirements determine how you store your company's records. Failing to meet these compliance frameworks can lead to severe penalties. An effective RMS secures your documents, enforces access controls, and preserves integrity at every stage of your data's lifecycle, ensuring you always stay compliant.

Holistic data protection

The average data breach in Australia costs approximately $3.35 million, so protecting sensitive records is a hot topic for businesses. An RMS offers robust security features, helping you to safeguard against malware, ransomware threats, and cyberattacks. Its organization functionalities also mitigate unintended data loss through human error.

Maximum productivity

According to the IDC, the average knowledge worker spends 30% of their workday searching for information. An RMS tackles this issue by categorizing your data automatically, making it faster for your staff to locate sensitive business information. 

This speeds up data retention, allowing your team to focus on productive, high-value tasks instead of poring through old files looking for needles in a haystack.

Cost savings

It's too common for companies to have thousands of files, databases, and documents, but how many of these records are helpful? American businesses waste an average of $8 billion on paper each year. 

An RMS solves this expensive problem by empowering you to keep the documents you need and safely dispose of those you don't. This keeps you on top of your workflow and slashes data storage costs.

Related: What is information management?

What’s the difference between physical and electronic records?

In the broadest sense, there are two types of record management solutions: physical (or paper) and electronic. Understanding the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of both will empower you to decide on the system best suited to your business. Let's explore each in more detail.

Physical records management

Physical records management describes managing, storing, and preserving hard copies and paper documentation. 

Many small businesses with little documentation still rely on paper as their primary method of recordkeeping. In addition, heavily regulated healthcare organizations and judicial bodies often require physical copies as evidence.

Is physical record management right for my business?

Keeping a tangible version of a key document can reassure businesses, and the ability to dispose of a physical copy provides a sense of control many companies appreciate.

That said, managing records physically can be cumbersome, especially if your organization has thousands of files. Plus, physical infrastructure requirements mean costs can quickly add up. This can make it tricky to scale as your business grows.

In addition, manually allocating files and retrieving archived documents is a time-consuming business process. It'll come as no surprise organizations waste an average of four weeks each year sorting through mislabeled, misplaced, or misfiled paper records. 

Electronic record management

Electronic record management refers to storing, preserving, and managing electronic records. This includes electronic documents, emails, databases, images, audio, and any other form of electronic information. 

What is the difference between an EDMS and an EDRMS?

In an office setting, sometimes, both terms can be used interchangeably, and they hold some distinct differences:  

  • Electronic document management system (EDMS): This term refers to the overall management of electronic documents.
  • Electronic document records management system (EDRMS): This extends the functionality of an EDMS by adding records management capabilities.

Is an electronic record management application right for my business?

Transitioning to digital records can offer several advantages to your business. An electronic document management system (EDMS) can enhance workflow efficiency by allowing your employees to access, retrieve, update, and back up digital records quickly. This approach also saves you space, reducing the costs associated with physical storage.

Despite these exciting benefits, conventional electronic record management still has some drawbacks. Technical issues like data corruption, cybersecurity breaches, and power cuts are still a cause for concern. For this reason, many businesses now prefer to utilize cloud-native record management platforms to store their data safely and securely. 

These cloud-based solutions offer a number of additional benefits, including superior security, remote accessibility, and process automation. Many also provide innovative management features such as document scanning to fast-track the uploading of electronic media.

Related: A guide to data classification: confidential data vs. sensitive data vs. public information

Challenges of record management (and how to solve them)

Record management can be daunting, especially if your business has many documents to preserve. To address some of the common concerns many organizations have surrounding record management, let’s examine a few hurdles and how you can overcome them. 

Managing hybrid records

Juggling physical and electronic records, known as 'hybrid records,' poses a unique challenge for businesses. Paper documents demand storage space, physical protection, and meticulous organization. 

On the other hand, electronic records require digital infrastructure and robust cybersecurity. Balancing these two elements effectively demands a cohesive strategy.

How can I solve this problem?

The key to solving the hybrid record conundrum is to import your physical records for digital storage. Doing so will allow you to manage all your electronic and physical documents in one place, ensuring organization and easy readability.

Your document management system can assist you with this task. For example, RecordPoint allows you to register your physical records manually. You can categorize your data, add context, and manage permissions digitally, allowing you to view all of your hybrid documents in one place.

Evolving legislation

With recordkeeping violations costing US businesses $1.235 billion in 2022 alone, staying updated on ever-evolving legislation is an ongoing challenge for companies. The dynamic nature of frameworks requires organizations to adapt their record management practices continuously, and failing to keep pace can have significant repercussions. 

How can I solve this problem?

The trick to staying informed on compliance is to remain proactive. Stay informed about recent developments, train your staff to understand your recordkeeping responsibilities, and assess your policies and procedures regularly to update them as required. 

Your RMS software can also assist you with this. Platforms, like RecordPoint, use machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify high-risk data. This data is then flagged for retention, disposition, or holding based on context, allowing you to prioritize your management tasks proactively.

Cloud security concerns

The transition towards cloud-based record management brings its own set of challenges, primarily centered around data security. 

Organizations must ensure that the sensitive information and official records they store in the cloud are fortified against vulnerabilities and unauthorized access. If you fail to do so, your business risks losing customer trust and facing severe legal consequences.

An overabundance of data spread across dozens of applications and environments only adds to this problem. If businesses don't know where all of their information resides, how can they ensure it's safeguarded?

How can I solve this problem?

Choosing the right cloud-native management software is essential to navigating cloud security concerns. Seek out solutions that adhere to strict regulations, provide continuous data monitoring, and offer privacy management functionalities.

A quality cloud-native RMS solution like RecordPoint allows you to manage records from every platform, application, and workflow in one central place. This means there's no need to move your data from its source, and you won't lose sleep worrying about where your sensitive information is located.

Related: Why do audit logs matter for business security and compliance?

Integrating a record management solution into your business

Now that we've explored some of the best practices surrounding data management, let's take a moment to reveal how you can implement a records manager solution in your business. Here are five key steps to get started.

Identify your needs

Kick things off by assessing exactly what your organization is looking to get out of records management software. 

Understanding the compliance rules and workflow processes relevant to you and your industry is crucial. Also, consider your scalability needs to choose an RMS that can grow alongside your business. Knowing your requirements sets the stage for choosing the right RMS for your business.

Choose the right RMS

Once you understand what you're looking for, it's time to choose records software that aligns with your business goals. Depending on what you hope to get from your RMS, you may opt for an on-premises system or a cloud-native platform. 

Assess potential candidates for things like scalability opportunities, compliance adherence, data sensitivity, and user interface. Choose a system that will roll with the punches as your organization grows to safeguard your business continuity.

Migrate your existing records

With your RMS system set up, it's time to migrate your existing records into your new solution. At this point, you should also set up a records retention schedule that automates and tracks the information lifecycle. This ensures you always know exactly when a record ends its retention period. 

Don't forget to import all of your physical records at this stage. Having a single management tool that preserves your electronic and physical documents is the easiest way to keep your data organized and prevent the time sink of locating paper files.

Train your employees

With your system in place, it's time to get your staff up to speed. Offer demonstrations and provide hands-on training to ensure every relevant team member understands your RMS system's ins and outs.

At this stage, it's also crucial to explain the data lifecycle, establish policies, explain regulatory compliance, and define which staff members can access certain records. Setting up protocols proactively will ensure your team is compliant, informed, and in touch with your goals.

Monitor and maintain your RMS

While your RMS will automatically organize many of your records, it's important to practice ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Regularly assess your business activity to stay on the cusp of compliance updates, and provide continuous training to your staff to ensure you keep your data secure.

Related: A guide to data governance principles and best practices

Record management compliance

The first step to proactive compliance is understanding the regulations that apply to your business. Let’s explore three of the most influential compliance frameworks and reveal how an RMS can help you navigate them. 

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

HIPAA is a US compliance framework for healthcare entities. The act enforces strict protocols for handling electronic health records (EHRs) to preserve patient confidentiality. 

Businesses operating in this sector must implement complex security measures like encryption, access management, and continuous monitoring and compliance tracking. 

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

GDPR significantly impacts all businesses that handle the personal data of EU residents. The act focuses on individual privacy rights and mandates businesses to provide transparent information about how data is stored, used, and accessed. 

Organized electronic recordkeeping, transparent data storage practices, and robust security measures are a must to remain compliant with this law.

SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act)

SOX compliance is crucial for publicly traded companies. The act demands accurate financial reporting and transparent documentation processes. To remain compliant, businesses must implement stringent access control, maintain thorough analyst reports, and establish regular audit trails. 

Related: Improving security and compliance in remote work environments

How can an RMS help with compliance?

When it comes to compliance, an electronic record management system is indispensable. For HIPAA, your RMS will provide a secure vault for your electronic health records, offering encryption, access controls, and continuous monitoring to uphold patient confidentiality. 

With GDPR, your RMS ensures records are preserved and managed transparently. Your solution will also facilitate access controls and employ robust security measures to uphold individual privacy rights.

SOX compliance becomes more manageable as your RMS can create and manage meticulous, automated records and audit trails, promoting accurate financial reporting. 

By centralizing your data management, your RMS simplifies the challenges of navigating these frameworks, making proactive compliance a breeze.

What does the future hold for records management?

As recordkeeping continues to evolve, so does the need for innovative new management applications to keep up with the growing demand for scalable, secure data handling. 

In this dynamic landscape, cloud-native management software is emerging as a game-changer for recordkeeping, offering unparalleled scalability, cost-effectiveness, and security. 

Combined with the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the modern RMS delivers new opportunities for businesses to save time, cut costs, remain compliant, and allocate their resources more efficiently.
With 35% of CIOs stating cloud technologies are among their top investments, businesses are clearly beginning to see the benefit of cloud-native record management. RMS capabilities will continue to evolve, providing even more reasons for organizations to ditch the paper and make the switch to cloud recordkeeping.

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How can RecordPoint help?

We're offering our expertise on a global scale, helping organizations worldwide gain a competitive edge with an innovative cloud data management solution that is more efficient, secure, and affordable than any other.

With our records management solutions, you’ll experience complete control. Our software makes it easy for you to locate, manage, and govern your data at scale. 

As the only SaaS player to formally complete a third-party IRAP assessment, we've demonstrated our commitment to exceptional service, industry-leading security, and adherence to strict data governance policies. There's a reason we're the trusted partner of dozens of highly regulated organizations. 

There are over 900+ connection opportunities that help businesses manage their data consistently across all business systems, all in one place, without having to move a thing. Additionally, with RecordPoint’s accurate AI and ML model, you’ll have everything you need to automate your processes and optimize your workflow.
RecordPoint has a personalized solution to meet your data requirements. Contact us today and book a tour to learn how we can elevate your business this year.

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