Strategies for Developing a Document Imaging & Electronic Retention Program

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1 Is it okay to destroy the paper source records? Are there any exceptions? Strategies for Developing a Document Imaging & Electronic Retention Program How do we ensure the program will stand up in court?

2 2 Table of Contents 1 Know the Law 2 Incorporate Relevant Industry Standards 3 Obtain Written Endorsement from Senior Management 4 Develop Detailed Procedures 5 Develop and Implement an Electronic Records Management System Records Classification Records Retention & Disposition Enhanced Information Retrieval & Sharing 6 Review and Audit the Program Regularly 7 The Benefits of Imaging Beyond Electronic Records Retention Reduced storage costs Faster access Automation opportunities With the price of office space rising every year, storage space for paper files and other physical records is becoming scarce and more expensive. At the same time, however, electronic storage is getting cheaper and more plentiful. It is little wonder, then, that many organizations are looking at document imaging as a solution to their records retention worries. The logic is simple: create electronic copies of records that currently occupy physical space and open opportunities for cheaper electronic storage. But in pursuing this seemingly simple goal, an organization will always face several critical questions. For example, is it okay to destroy the paper source records? Are there any exceptions? How do we ensure the program will stand up in court? The answers depend on a number of legal, technical and business factors which can vary across different jurisdictions and business sectors. This white paper cuts through the complexity by outlining the key steps to follow when planning and implementing a program designed to replace retained paper records with electronic versions, also known as an electronic retention program. By incorporating the steps described in this article it will be clearer if electronic versions of paper records will meet your records retention requirements, and if your organization is ready to go down that path. We will also look at the overall benefits of document imaging, which can go well beyond enabling an electronic retention program. 8 TAB Can Help You Get Electronic Retention Right

3 3 Many jurisdictions have laws that allow for an electronic copy to stand in the place of an original paper record for purposes of providing legal evidence or complying with records retention rules. Step 1 Know the Law Any plan to move toward electronic retention of records instead of paper records should begin with a thorough, documented review of relevant statutes and regulations. Such work can be performed as a separate exercise or within the process of creating an overall records retention schedule. Either way, the key is to understand the business functions your organization performs and in which legal jurisdictions it performs them. Many jurisdictions have laws that allow for an electronic copy to stand in the place of an original paper record for purposes of providing legal evidence or complying with records retention rules. However, such laws also typically specify exemptions or specific conditions that must be met. A legally compliant imaging program must meet those conditions and allow for any specified exceptions. For example, the Electronic Information and Documents Act of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan states that the requirement to retain any information or document in an original form is satisfied by retention of the document in an electronic form as long as there is a reasonable assurance as to the integrity of the information or document at all times. The various procedures, processes, and controls outlined in this white paper are designed to help an organization provide this reasonable assurance of integrity. It is equally important that an organization be aware of any specific paper source records which cannot be disposed of after their conversion to an electronic format via imaging. For example, the same law quoted above explicitly excludes certain land title documents and negotiable instruments. Similarly, laws governing specific business functions may specify the exact medium in which records must be retained. Given that there will usually be special cases and exceptions, it is important to have clear procedures and guidelines to help employees identify and retain any source records that are required to be retained in paper format.

4 4 No decision to pursue a document imaging and electronic retention program should be made without the support of senior management. Without such authorization, it can prove exceedingly difficult to defend the imaging program and any disposition of paper source records in an audit, litigation or other legal scenario. Step 2 Incorporate Relevant Industry Standards Laws allow electronic images to stand in the place of original records as long as there is a reasonable assurance of integrity, but what exactly makes for reasonable assurance? Unfortunately, most laws are conspicuously short on detail when it comes to showing how exactly to achieve this level of assurance in specific industries or recordkeeping environments,. To overcome this, various records and information management bodies have developed widely recognized standards to provide the guidance necessary to comply with the laws. Some standards even directly call out specific statutes or regulations. For example, the Canadian General Standards Board publishes CAN/CGSB Microfilm and Electronic Images as Documentary Evidence to help organizations comply with various Evidence Acts. Another example is DoD STD - Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications. Though originally developed by and for the United States Department of Defense, this standard has become widely recognized across different business sectors worldwide as a minimal set of requirements for the management of electronic records, which includes scanned paper records. In developing and implementing an electronic retention program, an organization should refer to relevant industry standards like these and formally document those that will be used to build procedures, processes, and controls. This helps ensure that the program contains all of the necessary elements for complying with the law and managing risk, while at the same time providing documented evidence of the organization s best efforts to identify and comply with applicable requirements. Step 3 Obtain Written Endorsement from Senior Management No decision to pursue a document imaging and electronic retention program should be made without the support of senior management. Industry standards such as CGSB explicitly require written authority from senior management to establish the image management program. Without such authorization, it can prove exceedingly difficult to defend the imaging program and any disposition of paper source records in an audit, litigation or other legal scenario. In seeking this written authorization from senior management, you will need to demonstrate that applicable requirements and risks have been addressed via documented procedures, processes and controls. Written authorization should include acknowledgement that the imaging activities will form part of the ordinary course of business in the organization. The authorization should also designate the members of staff that will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the program. The need for written authorization from senior management does not end with initial signoff on the program. Over time, as changes to the program are proposed, you will need to go back to senior management and obtain written sign-off on any revisions or changes before they are implemented.

5 5 No document imaging and electronic retention program is complete without a detailed procedures manual or equivalent set of documents. Step 4: Develop Detailed Procedures No document imaging and electronic retention program is complete without a detailed procedures manual or equivalent set of documents. This critical tool serves two purposes. For the individuals that perform document imaging tasks, it provides the exact details on how to perform their job, which reduces uncertainty and error. For the organization, it provides documented evidence that the program meets applicable requirements. In the event that the imaging program is called into question during legal proceedings, the documentation also helps to prove the reliability, authenticity and integrity of imaged records, as well as defends the accuracy and completeness of the imaging program and related controls. Typical elements of a procedures manual include: m identification of the types of records to be imaged; m procedures for preparing and scanning source records; m procedures for indexing and otherwise aiding the retrieval of images; m quality control processes, including steps for re-scanning any source records; m procedures for disposing of source records, including specific timelines for temporary retention, sign-offs on disposition (where required), and secure destruction methods; m safeguards for protecting the integrity and confidentiality of images during all stages of their life cycle, including capture, distribution and storage; m back-up, recovery and other processes for ensuring that imaged records remain complete and accessible in the event of disasters and other threats. In writing these procedures, look directly to industry standards where available, and be prepared to go beyond these to achieve the detail required to direct staff through imagingrelated activities and provide evidence of the different controls applied along the way. Step 5: Develop and Implement an Electronic Records Management System In developing a document imaging and electronic retention program, be sure to focus beyond the initial capture of the image. While imaging activities are a key part of the program, it is equally important that procedures, processes and controls be applied across the entire life cycle of the imaged records, which may include active use, distribution, inactive storage and eventual disposition.

6 6 Through full text searching and more structured metadata indexing, many systems allow users to locate relevant information faster and more comprehensively This additional level of control can be realized through an effectively designed and implemented electronic records management system (ERMS). Such a system should be designed in compliance with industry standards for recordkeeping systems, including but not limited to ISO 15489, and implemented after careful analysis of your organization s specific technical and business requirements. In meeting these requirements, the ERMS should incorporate the following basic records management program elements: Records Classification: Just as records classification categories help identify and apply records management rules to paper records, so too should classification hierarchies be integrated into ERMS design. Such a structure can then be used to organize and retrieve information, apply security models, and apply electronic workflows governing records retention and disposition. Records Retention and Disposition: Most commercially available ERMS have retention modules designed to identify and securely delete records that are eligible for disposition, subject to approval. If implemented correctly, these modules can draw directly on your organization s retention schedules, notify stakeholders of pending disposition, provide certified authorizations of disposition, and apply legal holds where necessary. Enhanced Information Retrieval and Sharing: If your challenge is convincing a paper-addicted workforce of the benefits of electronic document management, consider focusing on what the change can mean for daily information access. Through full text searching and more structured metadata indexing, many systems allow users to locate relevant information faster and more comprehensively than they would have ever thought possible in the paper world. than they would have ever thought possible in the paper world. Find documents faster through full text searching. By applying these and other critical records management tools across the entire life cycle of the electronic record, your organization will be in a better position to provide reasonable assurance of the integrity of those records and ensure that the records are sufficient for meeting evidentiary requirements.

7 7 Audit and review mechanisms are necessary in order to ensure that procedures are being followed and controls applied correctly. Step 6: Review and Audit the Program Regularly The different steps described in this article consist of proactive measures for ensuring the integrity of documented images and the systems by which they are captured, stored and accessed. But it is not enough to simply apply best practices and move on. Audit and review mechanisms are necessary in order to ensure that procedures are being followed and controls applied correctly. For optimal protection, audits and reviews should be performed on multiple levels, which may include: m Regular, ongoing checks of image quality, completeness of content, and metadata accuracy. m Retroactive review of system audit controls and quality control logs to confirm that corrective actions were taken as necessary. m Audits of disposition authorities, destruction lists and other documentation as necessary to ensure that source records were disposed of with the required authorizations and that all required disposition activity did in fact take place. m Scheduled, broad-based reviews to the document imaging and electronic retention program in order to ensure continued compliance with applicable requirements and the effectiveness of the program in meeting the business needs of the organization. By applying these levels of control, an organization can not only identify and correct errors, but also demonstrate that the document imaging and electronic retention program is operating in compliance with program requirements at any given point in time. This in turn provides further support for the role of the imaged records in meeting your organization s requirements for records retention and legal discovery. The Benefits of Imaging Beyond Electronic Records Retention This paper has focused on the use of document images as official records for purposes of meeting legally mandated records retention requirements and providing documentary evidence in the event of litigation, audit or other proceedings. The steps presented in this paper are designed to allow for disposition of the paper or other physical source record once all required document imaging processes, procedures and controls have been applied.

8 8 But there is more to document imaging than just records retention and discovery. Even in cases where paper records must be retained, there are many reasons to consider imaging those records: By removing the physical handling and movement of paper from the information retrieval process, document imaging can slash the amount of time necessary to locate, retrieve and use a given document or file. Reduced storage costs: Given the rising costs of office space in many real estate markets, more and more organizations are struggling to reduce the amount of floor space necessary to store paper files and other physical records media. The most obvious solution may be to move records to much higher density storage in a less expensive location. While this can dramatically reduce the monthly financial footprint of a given volume of records, those savings can be negated by the costs of retrieving and then re-filing records. An effective document imaging program responds directly to that challenge by offering an electronic copy that users can access from their own workstation, eliminating the need to retrieve the original file. Meanwhile, the paper file is still available for that rare time when it is called upon for use in court or to prove compliance with physical retention requirements. Faster access: By removing the physical handling and movement of paper from the information retrieval process, document imaging can slash the amount of time necessary to locate, retrieve and use a given document or file. When measured across an organization s workforce, those small time savings can add up to huge increases in productivity and reductions in labor costs. Even when an organization has a welldesigned active filing system at its main work location, document imaging capabilities can allow real-time access to team members who work from home offices, remote field locations, or even other countries. Automation opportunities: By converting records to an electronic format, document imaging allows for the application of technology and tools which would otherwise be inaccessible to paper and other physical records media. For instance, when an imaging solution includes optical character recognition (OCR), you can take advantage of full text searching, auto-classification, and e-discovery solutions. Imaged records can also be directly incorporated into electronic workflow tools, thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the business transactions and tasks that rely on records each day.

9 9 Contact one of our representatives today. UNITED STATES CANADA AUSTRALIA EUROPE TAB Can Help You Get Electronic Retention Right While electronic retention does not offer a quick or easy alternative to retaining paper records, the benefits often make it worth the time and effort involved. When it is done right, it can reduce storage and access costs and increase productivity, while keeping you fully compliant with applicable legislation and retention standards. The keys to success for an electronic retention program are to know the law, apply relevant industry standards, obtain senior approval, and to implement and review the procedures and controls. Is an electronic retention program right for your organization? Answering that question is often easier with the help of a records professional with direct experience implementing these programs. The team at TAB can help. Get in touch and let us help you assess the viability of an electronic retention program for your organization.

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