By Grainger Editorial Staff 5/30/19
As technology continues to improve, it may be time for your facility to consider digitizing documents and records. Electronic records offer a fast and scalable solution to stay ahead of audits, without the risks of paper documentation. While the move from physical to electronic record keeping can seem daunting, it offers significant benefits your facility can't afford to overlook. Electronic records offer a safer and more practical way to search and sort your records, cutting down internal review and audit times. To make the move, it's imperative to invest in the right goals, people and technologies today.
Your manual recordkeeping system may have worked for you in the past, but chances are it was slow, prone to errors and failed to scale. These issues can not only be a waste of time, but can also jeopardize the health of your business.
Since manual systems often rely on one person, scaling or even adding a new member to the team can be a significant task. Once a single error is introduced, it can also go unnoticed until audit time, exposing the business to significant risk. Manual systems on paper are also exposed to the risk of natural disasters. Fires, floods and accidents can eliminate years of records.
What are the advantages of electronic records? Electronic recordkeeping systems use the same inputs from your manual recordkeeping, but provide easy to use tools to detect errors in your documents and to sort and scan your information. Records no longer live in isolation, and recordkeeping teams can naturally collaborate to capture and share the right data without added effort. Records are easy to scan and search, saving time when a record needs to be reviewed.
The same benefits extend to audits and auditors. Audits generally require a thorough review of all documents in a locked room, with weeks of tracking down and scanning documents. This error-prone process is billed by the hour, rapidly draining time and money from your business. With digital records, all documents are ready for review at all times, and auditors can quickly sort, review and search records to find the exact information needed. With less time spent auditing, costs go down and the recordkeeping team can spend more time documenting new records instead of tracking down old ones.
Chances are your auditors already wish your business used digital records. The same time and labor savings that benefit your business, also benefit your auditors by reducing complexity and repetition. Documents that are easily reviewed, sorted and searched allow auditors to focus on compliance and accuracy, rather than finding missing pages or understanding handwriting.
Why is electronic recordkeeping important? A “paperless” audit modernizes the entire audit process, potentially reducing on-site time and the scope of the audit. Records can be accessed remotely, and all audit-related paperwork can itself be digitized. That means faster results, more evidence and less demand on your team to produce and sort documents.
Getting started can seem difficult, but can actually be easy if you approach the project with a clear goal and the right team:
Name a team: Like any major organizational shift, you need a leader and a team to manage the effort to completion. This team will have to not only document the existing process and create a plan to digitize records, but will also have to actually perform the move. Before even creating your plan, ensure you have the right team and leaders selected for the effort, or augment your team with outside help if necessary.
Audit your records: Before the external audit, you first need to audit your own records to understand where everything is stored, how it is filed and documented and what types of information you have. Doing so before a move to electronic records will save time and reduce complexity, with fewer slowdowns during the process when new records are found.
Select a single system: When digitization first starts, review all your options and select the right structure for your organization. Failing to select a single electronic records system will leave you with competing approaches to recordkeeping and will slow down the entire migration. After an audit, the first task for your team is to select how they will migrate records, which formats work best for your unique situation and which tools will host and group documents.
Focus on high value goals: Once you start, it can be tempting to go all out, digitizing as much as possible at once. Yet, just a few weeks later, your team may find themselves burning out and making little valuable progress. To avoid this issue, start with the most critical documents first, including those vital to the business and its financials and transactions. Once these documents are digitized, teams will be able to start using them immediately and will quickly recognize how valuable it is to digitize your records.
As technology improves, so will your recordkeeping. Digital recordkeeping will cut down on your time, and will offer a safer, more practical way of keeping your records.
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.