Compliance is Critical

March 10th, 2017

Policies and Procedures for Information and Data Compliance

The first quarter of a new year can be a whirlwind.  Data needs to be analyzed and compiled for year-end reports reflecting the accomplishments of the past 12 months and plans and projections for the coming year developed.  By the beginning of the second quarter, many organizations shift to an information turnover phase.  Records that have met their retention requirements can be disposed of in order to make room for new information saving on space and expenses as well as mitigating risk.  In layman’s terms, this might be considered spring cleaning.  A time to sort through desk drawers, file cabinets, electronic files and storage spaces.  But how do you determine a precedent for what can be disposed of and are there requirements regarding how the material is to be destroyed?

In high-profile investigations, information disposal and destruction are extremely sensational topics.  Think back to Enron/Arthur Anderson or Tyco.  However, it’s not just the big guys who are affected.  Search “improperly destroyed records” and you’ll be stunned by the number of examples you find.  If your organization were to come under investigation or litigation, could you show that you routinely dispose of information (paper and electronic) in the normal course of business?

The answer to this question is to have policies and procedures for record retention and disposal in place—and follow them.  The difference between a policy and a procedure can be seen in Webster’s definitions.  A policy is “a high-level overall plan embracing general goals and acceptable procedures” where a procedure is “a series of steps followed in a regular and defined order”.

By establishing records retention policies and procedures and following them throughout your organization, you can be prepared in the event of an investigation or litigation.  If you don’t already have records retention policies and procedures in place or need an objective analysis or audit of those you already have to ensure you are in compliance, contact our on-staff Certified Records Manager.

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