Get Your Docs in a Row
Getting Your Docs in a Row: How a Records Management Strategy Can Prepare You for an Audit
For any organization, it can be challenging to maintain the necessary documentation for audits. Auditors often require access to a plethora of company information to ensure your practices are compliant with regulations. This may include information such as payroll and other employee data, your company’s financial statements, and more. If you don’t have an effective document management solution in place, you’ll be scrambling to locate paper documents, electronic files, tax records, invoices, emails and more – since we tend to store information in different formats and in different places.
For a typical audit, you usually have a few months to prepare. However, if you’re records unorganized, that’s not a lot of time. At best, you’re struggling to find information the auditor is requesting and it’s wasting time and resources. At worst, failing to provide that information to an auditor puts you at risk for compliance penalties, fines, loss of critical industry certifications, and damage to your professional reputation with customers.
With a comprehensive document management strategy in place, preparing for an audit doesn’t have to be time consuming or stressful. Your company may be subject to many types of audits, depending on what industry you’re in – whether it’s healthcare, insurance, finance and banking, food processing, legal, etc…a strategy that involves a reliable software and record retention schedule can make your audit a breeze.
Invest in a cloud-based electronic document storage software for your vital digital records
When beginning audit preparation, find a document management software that utilizes file indexing, retrieval and OCR to securely store scanned and electronic files so you can easily search for necessary information when the time comes. With an automated document management system, records are complete, secure, and easily accessible to permissioned staff anywhere, anytime. Invest in a document scanning service to convert financial records, HR files, tax information, and invoices into electronic format and utilize a cloud software to organize and store digital records – this will make audits more turnkey and efficient. Digitizing records also reduces costs, risk of loss, and time spent maintaining, transporting, and storing paper files.
Simplify audits, increase compliance – with an electronic document management system, you can:
- Eliminate risk of exposing confidential client and employee data
- View and control the complete lifecycle of your records in a single repository
- Immediately enact legal holds or update retention policies with ease
- Make a workflow trail visible to auditors
- Easily update procedures to comply with changes in regulations
Create a record retention strategy and stick to it
A record retention schedule ensures that vital documents are securely stored and accessible, while records that have outlived their usefulness are securely destroyed and don’t consume valuable space. Along with creating a centralized repository for electronic records within a secure electronic document storage software, set expiration dates on hard copy documents in storage. Based on your industry’s compliance standards, some records (such as tax records, employee files, legal records, etc…) are typically kept for 7 years or more before they can be securely shredded. A record retention system will take the guesswork out of what documents to keep for an audit and which ones to shred. It will also ensure that you’re not incurring unnecessary expenses related to overhead or time spent filing/searching for information.
Want to practice audit preparedness? Don’t forget to…
- Stay up-to-date on federal and state compliance regulations
- Establish digital and hard-copy version control for important documents
- Facilitate inter-departmental communication between accounts payable, human resources, operations, etc…so when it comes time for an audit, all records are accessible through one centralized electronic repository
- Have a disaster recovery plan in place that addresses hard-copy and electronic records
Is your organization prepared for an audit? The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) has some tips for how to gauge your audit readiness.