Every spring, you look outside and note that your yard is a mess. As the weather starts warming up, you begin to prepare a mental list of all the things you would like to accomplish. You take an inventory of all the spots in the lawn, the junk that needs to make its way out of the shed, the fence that needs pressure washing.
Then, you make that first trip to the big box store to load up on fertilizer and other outdoor products. You know, instinctively, that these items will make your yard the shining light of the neighborhood. When you put in the hard work, it shows. There is a sense of accomplishment. At the end of your spring cleaning, when all the big and little tasks are done, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the smell of that freshly cut lawn.
Spring cleaning is a concept that not only applies to your house and backyard; it applies to your electronic records management system as well. While my lawn might not always be in tip top shape, I can tell you that my document management system is—and yours should be too. In this article, I am going to share some helpful tips that I use to make sure my documents are easily searchable and available when auditors call for them.
My document indexes mean something and yours should too!
When planning your document storage and retention, always think “how am I going to find this document?” If you can’t find a document when you need it, then what’s the point in keeping it? That’s where document indices come in. Document indices are the index or metadata that follow the documents throughout your imaging system. These would be the identifiers you would use to retrieve your saved documents.
Most of the time in the credit union world these are the standard: account number, suffix, social security number, last name, first name. It’s important to ensure these indexes are being captured at the time you are saving your documents to your storage solution. If they are not, you might as well throw out that electronic document, because you may never find it again.
Think of the documents you capture on a regular basis. Are you acquiring all the potential index data that could be used to retrieve your imaged data? Is the document being saved in its correction home on your document imaging system?
Document retention guidelines
Are you currently following your credit union’s data retention plan? A document retention plan lays the groundwork for how your credit union will manage documents. This can include not only member specific images, such as signature cards and loan documents, but can also include data like invoices, contracts, tax returns, emails, and other document types. Federal and state laws can dictate how long you need to keep these records. Applying your document retention plan allows your credit union to intelligently make decisions on which records need to be kept, and which records can be purged from your system.
Document retention plays an important role with your indexes too. Being able to accurately index your records with purge dates in advance may help your organization purge records based on predetermined dates, which you can elect to enter and catalog. Document types dictate the indexes and retention plan for the records in your imaging system. For example, a loan from a member would be expected to have a different set of indexes from an invoice from a vendor. The same principles would apply to the retention schedule for those document types.
Test your system
Think of spring cleaning when it comes to your document indexes and retention policy. Take a look at your imaging system and see where you are with these items. Is your imaging system able to produce results on missing indexes? Try and find a member document in your system where the account number is empty. Are you able to find all account numbers that are missing from your member documents section of your imaging system?
Search your loans section of your imaging system. Are you able to sort your results on the date the loan was paid off or funded? How does this data look? Has anything entered the time frame of which your document retention policy should deem as a record set which can be purged?
Having these items sorted out will allow you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the freshly cut lawn, too.