There’s no way around it: Financial records management is a complex topic. In the United States, organizations are required by law to save some accounting documents for seven years, while others must be retained indefinitely. And access to certain financial records must be restricted to specific personnel, especially in publicly traded corporations.
Unfortunately, many organizations lack the necessary infrastructure to manage financial compliance processes in an effective, efficient manner. An electronic document management solution is an essential tool in streamlining your company’s process, making financial records management faster, cheaper and easier to use.
Think about it for a second: How do you know which documents should stay in your active filing system? How will you know which documents are ready to be deleted, or archived in online document storage or a document warehouse? And where are all those documents right now?
These three questions should help you clarify where your process is today and how to begin streamlining it:
- Are your accounting records captured electronically or do you need to convert paper files? First, it’s important to get a handle on what type of system you’re going to streamline. If your documents are already largely electronic, you might want to start importing them into a digital document management system at a certain date, and move forward from there. If your active files are still in paper form, you may need to have a document scanning service convert them for you. Or, depending on the frequency of need, you may want to convert your paper files on an as-needed basis.
When all of your documents are in the document management solution, you’re able to configure business rules that allow the software to automatically determine how long each document needs to be stored and any other restrictions.
- Should you store your records in the cloud, or on premises? Another important issue with records management is what digital storage medium you plan to use. At this point, it pays to look ahead and plan for how to keep your information current and accessible.
With a digital document management system, you don’t have the same concerns about keeping your technology current — especially if you go with cloud storage. Cloud-based document management stays current by nature, and offers a host of benefits, including the ability to encrypt your data for security. Depending on your industry’s compliance requirements, your organization may be required to store certain documents in on-premises data storage.
- How do you plan to retrieve your records? At some point, you need to be able to find what you’ve put into your system. With a good document management system, you’re able to index your documents and use powerful search functionality to retrieve whatever you need quickly and efficiently. Ideally, your indexing system should minimize or eliminate any manual data entry. The best systems are able to automatically index your electronic documents, extracting specific metadata and fields and using it to populate the index.
Financial records management may seem like a catch-22: On one hand, you need to maintain financial compliance. On the other hand, trying to manage everything with your existing process would probably take up far too much time and money.
That’s why digital document management is such a powerful solution: It helps ensure compliance by automating record storage, while at the same time cutting costs by increasing your company’s efficiency and access to important business information.
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