Document Management Best Practices

Document management and storage is essential in any business, ensuring that paperwork such as invoices, historical documents, customer contracts and more, are archived correctly in order to enhance overall efficiency and reliability. 

According to a survey conducted by Cleardata, it can take a British business up to 5.61 days on average to retrieve documents physically stored in a dedicated facility, and for other companies, it could take up to several months. 

As this isn’t an efficient way of working for the archiving and retrieval of paperwork, Cleardata are on hand to talk you through the importance of correct document management and storage, as well as some tips to help your business process improvement. 

Business document management – findings

The aforementioned document management survey found the following:-

  • The majority of businesses are holding onto paperwork acquired, but may not be archiving documents in an efficient, safe or cost-effective manner. 
  • Many are retaining physical paperwork for an average of 10.34 years, with a third of those having a purpose-built facility specifically for document archiving.
  • Some are either getting rid of paperwork too soon or holding onto it for longer than is necessary. In turn, this often generates unnecessary costs and complexity. Although, there are some companies who unknowingly underestimate how important it is to have a safe, secure and well-managed archive purely for storing both customer and employee data.
  • Most businesses involved in the survey admitted to having no digital record of documentation, instead relying on physical filing systems. However, they also said that they quickly understood how imperative it is to digitise the paperwork they have in order to save space, time and also money, as well as keeping documents safe and secure for their clients and employees.

What are the facts?

  • The average paper document is held onto for 10 years and smaller businesses hold onto them for 12 years
  • Some companies only hold onto their documents for 6 months or less whereas others hold onto their paperwork for up to 100 years
  • A third of businesses utilise purpose-built archiving facilities to store documents
  • It can take, on average, 5.61 days to retrieve documentation from physical storage facilities, but then it can also take several months
  • 72% of businesses archive their paper documents using filing cabinets, drawers and cupboards within the office as opposed to an offsite facility. 44% file paperwork away in storage lock-ups, 24% use basements to store their documents, 20% archive paperwork away in the loft, 17% store documents in the shed and 14% use their garage to file the paperwork they’ve acquired

What happens when documents aren’t managed properly?

It’s important that business owners understand the risks involved when paperwork isn’t stored or archived safely, securely in an organised manner. By fully assessing the risks, a better understanding will be gained of where the company could make document storage improvements. In turn, this will enable a structured archiving plan, ensuring paperwork is stored securely.

What are the risks?

  • Compliance – GDPR carries the risk of large penalties for mismanaged data. 
  • Physical paperwork is difficult to retrieve for home-based staff
  • Documents stored in lockups can be accessed by multiple people, providing data protection challenges. 
  • Paperwork can deteriorate over time
  • Documents can become damaged if not stored responsibly and could succumb to fire, flooding or damp 
  • Documents and records lost or misfiled.
  • Documentation falls into the wrong hands, with the risk of theft or fraud

If any of the aforementioned scenarios occur, then there could be financial, reputational and even operational implications for your business. Mitigate the risks associated with storing paperwork incorrectly by improving, organising and upgrading the document management system you already have, in favour for an efficient, effective solution – digitising paperwork is a popular choice among business owners.

Benefits of properly managed documents

There are many benefits associated with correctly managed documents, specifically saving money and providing flexible access to information. In the current pandemic document access to physical files has provided a challenge for many businesses, with staff working from home.  

An organised document management and archiving system improves:-

  • access to information for remote workers
  • archive cost management
  • office space utilisation. 
  • Customer service

If paperwork is digitised it can help businesses avoid moving to larger premises and reduce the amount of expensive office, or retail space being used to accommodate filing cabinets and records.

Copying and mailing costs will also reduce with staff using digital documents and distribution, over physical photocopying and mailing. This paperless approach will also help your business to be eco-friendly.

Improve customer service – A digital system ensures information can be found in no time at all, helping your workers to respond to customer requests quickly, providing excellent service levels. 

The 5 P’s of document management planning

When looking to improve the way in which you manage your paperwork, it’s important that you consider a number of important factors before outlining and implementing your new document management plan – the 5 P’s.

Process – evaluate the documents you already have in your possession and then assess how effective your existing paperwork management is, especially when it comes to retrieval

People – think about who needs to be involved with the management of documents and who needs to have access to them

Place – plan where certain documents will be kept, factoring in the following before making that decision: cost, security, access, storage method and location security.

Practices – the proper practices, procedures and protocols must be followed throughout the document lifecycle. Healthy document management systems include correct authorisation, scanning, indexing, tracking and support

Performance – the strategy you choose must work effectively and should continue to do so indefinitely

How Cleardata Group can help you

Cleardata has a wide range of archive storage and document management systems available to help keep your paperwork safe, secure and organised. If you’re looking to improve the way in which your store, copy, find or retrieve documents, then Cleardata will be able to help. Some of the effective document management services offered include:

For more information about how we can help you today, get in touch with a member of our team – we’re always happy to help, ensuring you’re provided with the perfect document storage and management solutions.