Failing to protect company data and having to clean up after the fallout of a data breach can have disastrous consequences on a company's budget. In addition, companies may get slapped with hefty fines and penalties if they do not comply with local, state, and/or federal rules and regulations regarding document retention and record-keeping. Here are some quick tips for CFOs when it comes to document storage and sharing:
#1 Determine What Needs to be Saved
In the beginning, this may seem incredibly overwhelming. Depending on the sector your business is in, there may be special rules relating to accounting reports, tax documents, or financial statements, among other types of instruments. The key is to sort all of this out as soon as practicable and stay on top of it as the company grows. It would be very difficult to try to recreate records after the fact, so it is best to safeguard all documents from the outset. This is easy to do by establishing a corporate repository and organizing documents by type and subtype.
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#2 Determine the Length of Time Documents Need to be Retained
In addition to understanding which documents need to be saved, it is important to understand how long the different types of documents must be retained to comply with the pertinent statutory requirements. Some documents must be kept for three years, some for seven, and some for over a decade. It really varies by state and industry. Although it may seem like overkill, with the convenience of cloud computing, there is really no reason for companies to ever lose or delete documents.
#3 Create a Document Management Strategy
Time constraints may make it difficult for leaders to really get a handle on document retention rules, which usually leads to a haphazard approach to document storage. At a minimum, companies should set up an online database for company documents, but to keep things better organized and avoid issues down the line, it is really best to create a concrete document management strategy. This means thinking about what needs to be saved, how it should be saved, where it should be saved, who can access it, who should not have access to it, and so forth, and then putting the leadership team's decisions about these things into writing. And, everyone in the company needs to understand and adhere to any policy that is implemented to ensure consistency and continuity.
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#4 Invest in Secure Document Storage
Obviously, we've mentioned the importance of creating an online repository, but this shouldn't just be any online storage service. Company documents often contain valuable information in need of adequate protection. Therefore, it is important that any document management strategy include research and investment into a secure document storage service. Ideally, the selected solution should emphasize data security, be easy to set up and implement, have a simple user interface, allow for access restrictions, and offer unlimited storage capacity.
#5 Train Employees About Document Storage and Security
The only way to ensure that all company data is saved, protected, and accessible is by ensuring that everyone in the company who engages in document creation and review abides by the company's outlined document management rules. If different departments go about things in a different manner this will eventually lead to issues, and time and money will be wasted trying to sort things out later. Instead, leaders must be proactive by creating clearly written guidelines for document saving and storage, training personnel about these rules, and consistently enforcing compliance.