Sometimes, the survival of your company is riding on whether or not you can produce a specific document or file. Or whether you’ve destroyed that document or file in a timely manner. And sometimes, it’s not up to you to decide when that is needed. The more complex your operations are, the more you must adhere to industry regulations. Without a clear audit trail in place for organizations such as the HHS, the SEC, or FINRA, your daily operations could come to a dead halt, and your company held liable and subject to penalties for non-compliance.
What’s more, if you have a small business, you’re no less susceptible to the consequences of non-compliance. In fact, you’re even more susceptible. According to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, “The extensive involvement of senior management in day-to-day activities and fewer levels of management can provide additional opportunities for management to override controls in smaller, less-complex companies.” In other words, regulatory and legal agencies don’t trust you. Here’s how you can prepare:
1. Know Exactly What’s Required of You
You should be aware of every type of audit you could undergo, based on your industry and infrastructure. What deliverables do the auditing agencies want you to have ready to present for them? This might take some research, but the fastest route to compliance begins with knowledge.
2. Set Policies in Motion
Setting a records retention and disposition schedule. Allocating access and security. Conducting regular internal evaluations. Educating all employees on records information management requirements and their roles in each audit. These practices should all be established and second nature to your company. By the time you’re audited, you’ll just have to go through the motions like clockwork.
3. Make Sure Management is Completely on Board
RIM is as essential to your business as sales, marketing, and human resources. A lot of people forget that, including those in charge. The officials highest up are directly and legally responsible for meeting your company’s compliance standard. Make sure they know that.
4. Set Up RIM Technology
If you have a platform for your document management (DM) practices, make sure you have a system in place to apply that to your RIM. All the policies in Step 2—both internal and external—are made so much more efficient when integrated into a DM system. Make sure you’re configured for compliance.
5. Audit Yourself, Record, and Review
Practice makes perfect. Consider this a fire drill (and you’ll need to perform internal audits regularly, anyway). Also, internal audits highlight exactly what your shortcomings are, where your weak links are located, and who is responsible for addressing them. Make sure you take note of and evaluate the process thoroughly, addressing all moving parts. If everyone involved is in the loop as to what the best practices are (per Step 1), they’ll have no fear when the auditing agency comes knocking.
Your Road to the 15%
Disregarding all legal context, the idea of compliance is simple: all you need to do is comply. If the law requires something of you, have that item ready. But what if the law requires thousands of items? Or one among tens of thousands? You’re not alone in your concern, but with firmly outlined policies and procedures, as well as an informed staff, you’ll have a fortified audit trail that will move you through audits like clockwork. Only 15% of organizations have a clear RIM process in place. You are now aware of the tools you can use to place yourself among the best.