Any document, communication, and other record created or received that’s connected to public business is a public record and therefore, public property. Whether it’s related to legislative actions, finances, legal matters, administrative duties, or historical data, it all needs to be saved and managed until it reaches its mandated retention date. This is just one of the many challenges that employees of government agencies face.
Unless mandated by specific compliances, private businesses can be me much more relaxed with their record organization, as inadvisable as that is. A public entity has no such luxury. There is pressure from multiple sides to keep records filed and organized to the best of your abilities. Obviously, there are distinctions between what public records are subject to public disclosure.
But record-keeping costs money, and more than you think. There are a lot of overhead costs that go into making sure you’re maintaining your records.
The Costs Of Record-Keeping
This is a precious resource you don’t want to squander especially if you work in a small office with only a few others. Records management, especially manual management of physical documents, is a time-consuming task. Depending on the volume of documents your agency deals with, it can be a majority of one’s responsibilities.
The hours of labor that go into record management are a steep cost for organizations trying to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to labor. They want to know that time is being used efficiently, helps the agency meet its goals and is accomplishing its mission. Government organizations need to be even more cautious of spending their time wisely so that taxpayer money is used effectively.
Dealing with daily record management issues like manual data-entry, document filing, and document retrieval really adds up. Manual processes can be slowed down even more due to human error or a confusing filing system.
It’s why retrieval is one of the biggest culprits of time expenditure. Whether you’re fulfilling a public record request or retrieving a reference document for another office, retrieving records is further impeded by past mistakes in filing which lead to even more time spent browsing endless folders for what you’re looking for.
Too much time spent on record management is time spent away from working on other important tasks for the agency. Rather than completing important initiatives to better service the agency or constituents, employees spend the majority of their day going back and forth between the filing cabinet and their desks.
Storage Costs – Backup – Recovery
Excluding the costs of the paper itself, which continues to grow each year, storing documents is usually a big part of office overhead. In governmental work where every transaction and every communication needs to be saved, storage of records becomes burdensome. Agencies can rarely manage with a single filing cabinet. Most public organizations nowadays have a whole room dedicated to archiving, as well as more filing cabinets kept in each office.
When the paper keeps growing, and you just don’t have space, you either have to rely on solutions from other agencies or outsource storage to a qualified third-party. You’ll have to continue paying for off-site storage for the duration of your documents’ retention requirements.
It’s also advisable to create copies of your records to act as backups. This can be done on physical paper, but commonly it’s done through digitization. In the event of a disaster where your original records are damaged or destroyed, your backups should be accessible and able to quickly be recovered.
Other costly headaches include moving all your in-house records when you move offices.
There are a lot of stipulations when it comes to filing and maintaining certain documents. Documents that fall under regulations like HIPAA and FINRA require special care when filing and storing them. Rules can include storing documents in separate locations from your main files and keeping a detailed audit log of all who accessed and amended them.
If an audit finds that you’re not being compliant with your record keeping, you could face thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines depending on how egregious the violations are.
Retention is also a big part of maintaining records. Businesses, government agencies, and other organizations are obligated by law to retain certain records for different periods of time. However, it’s far from an organization’s best interest to just retain records indefinitely.
Retaining documents you no longer have to opens you up to litigation. Even if a document is past its retention date, if you’re ordered by a court to produce it, you have to. Getting dragged into a lawsuit or other court action is costly and distracts from your office’s goals.
Most record types from public entities must be retained indefinitely, but are usually transferred to a state archive for historical purposes after a set amount of time.
How You Can Save
Document management software was created to alleviate all of these major costs of record-keeping. It makes the filing and retrieval of documents as easy as possible thanks to optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Zonal OCR scans and recognizes the text in predefined fields on standard forms so it can route the document to the correct location based on the information it scanned. OCR is also used for full-text searching, which allows users to search for documents using any text you think is contained in the file.
When you’re not spending time filing and retrieving documents, that’s time saved for other tasks and initiatives. You’ll be able to get more real work done, as opposed to spending time on mundane tasks that could simply be automated.
Having your documents in a digital environment gives us the opportunity to initiate automated workflows that keep documents moving and brings them to the right people. For public entities, records that are created can automatically be routed to the right individuals for review and approval for it to then be archived.
Storage costs on the cloud are significantly cheaper than off-site storage facilities and your files are constantly backed-up to multiple locations.
Compliance and retention are also automated to an extent. Governance rules can be applied to certain document types which act as timers to perform certain actions when the retention date is reached. You can set up the system to send you a notification that the timer is up, to automatically purge it, or move it to a different location.
Document management software is a powerful tool that eliminates much of the redundancies and more importantly, the costs of keeping physical records. When working for the public, a big part of optics is the amount of taxpayer money you use, so making an investment in a long-term solution that will slash your overhead budget and make your office more economical is definitely something to boast about.
To learn more about Rubex by eFileCabinet and see it in action, fill out the form below for a free, personalized demo.