Blog written by Mike Terning, Greenstone Product Manager

“Downtown:  The lights are much brighter there, You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…”

When I travel, I try to take walks near the hotels where I stay.  Taking in the scenery in unfamiliar communities is enjoyable and sometimes educational.

One July morning I was walking on a street in downtown St. Joseph, Missouri and noticed an office building with the vertical blinds half-way open.  There was something bright that caught my attention.  Here is what I saw:

Notice how bright those walls are?  What else do you see?  Piles and piles of paper!

It brought to mind the song “Downtown”, performed by Petula Clark, Frank Sinatra, The B-52’s Dolly Parton and more recently by Emma Bunton.  This office looks like someone was trying to live by the lyrics, “You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares” by going downtown and storing their paper records!

The song “Downtown” goes on to state:  “And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you; Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to guide them along; So maybe I’ll see you there; We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares…”

So instead of ignoring care about paper, below are thoughts as “a gentle hand to guide” you to a brighter place in the upcoming year, when it comes to managing your documents.

1. Structure your document management process

  • Come up with a process that is easy to understand and guides how documents are filed and stored.
  • Have a written document retention policy that is shared and followed.
  • If using an electronic document management system, make sure to identify how to store documents and index or attach them to the applicable record or transaction.

2. Secure your documents

  • Critical documents need to be stored in a place that allows for easy retrieval and protects against disasters such as fires, floods and theft.
  • Determine which documents must be physically secure, granting access to only those staff who are authorized to access the documents.
  • If using an electronic document storage system, create user profiles to monitor storage and access to the documents.  Also make sure that electronic backups are performed and test backups on a scheduled basis.

3. Simplify document retrieval

  • If physical documents are stored in a warehouse or in an off-site facility, care must be taken to catalog where the documents can be physically found.  Written instructions and processes regarding how to (and who can) retrieve stored documents prevent confusion and save time.
  • An electronic document storage system should allow those with permission to easily find documents in a logical manner, perhaps relating to a counter-party and/or a transaction

4. Schedule document destruction

  • Your written document retention policy should list the retention time of each document.
  • Create a schedule of work or calendar reminders to ensure that the retention policy is followed and performed.
  • Assign retention and destruction responsibilities and hold those staff responsible.
  • Using a bonded third-party service to destroy and dispose of documents may help compliance efforts.
  • Consider having your internal or external auditors review and test compliance according to your policies, especially if using an electronic document management system.  Don’t assume that it is being followed—check to be certain that it is being followed.  As Louis Vincent Gerstner Jr., best known for serving as chairman of the board and CEO of IBM in the 1990’s said:  “People don’t do what you expect but what you inspect.”

5. Software can help you

  • Contact your software provider to see what solutions exist that may help you manage.

These thoughts probably won’t help you “forget all our troubles” or “forget all our cares,” but they may reduce your stress going forward as it relates to document management.

See how Greenstone can help with document management.