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How to keep true, accurate records for legal compliance

23 Jun 2020

Article by OnePlace Solutions CEO James Fox.

Businesses without adequate systems to manage the records required for legal and operational compliance risk losing important information, creating more work for employees and damaging their reputation. Failing to capture true and accurate records can lead to companies being in breach of the law, as well as the risk of breaching contracts with clients, either of which could have significant repercussions.

Different types of documents must be kept for different lengths of time and privacy regulations dictate that much of this documentation be kept secure. Just as digitalisation has streamlined many business processes, it also means that companies are receiving and sending more confidential and legal documentation via email. Managing this correspondence flow to ensure the business is always working with accurate documents and capturing appropriate emails and documents as records is essential.

Businesses need a way to manage the growing number of documents they work with, as well as their associated emails to maintain context.

It’s important that businesses understand their obligations, including which records must be kept and for how long. Almost all businesses will receive important information via email that they will need to keep, such as signed contracts, amendments, and financial records or advice from business advisers. However, it is often the business’s sent correspondence and associated email attachments that state a commitment and, importantly, form a record that must be maintained.  

Some industries also receive other types of critical information through emails that pertain to their own clients, current proceedings, or confidential agreements. This also adds to the requirement for businesses to find a solution that can securely store these files.

Using a solution that incorporates cloud storage and facilitates the capture of true and accurate records from emails, such as Microsoft SharePoint, can improve both recordkeeping and overall productivity. OnePlaceMail lets users drag and drop files from Microsoft Outlook into the cloud, and vice versa. Furthermore, the solution can classify critical email records using metadata, including the associated email attributes to maintain the context of the email.

This makes it much easier and simpler for employees to save emails and documents to the company SharePoint, and for businesses to maintain true and accurate records.

However, despite the clear benefits of a solution like SharePoint, many organisations find it difficult to get staff members to fully embrace the solution. This can result in a situation where some staff members manage information according to company policy while others save documents to their own desktop or file shares. Such a disparate and potentially siloed information management approach leaves organisations open to legal risks.

When employees don’t use the Microsoft 365 SharePoint to ensure all documents are properly managed, the business may not be able to fulfil its legal obligations. It may not be able to produce key documentation on time, miss crucial deadlines, and inadvertently produce incorrect documents. All of these risks carry significant ramifications, so the importance of having a holistic and companywide solution that everyone adheres to can’t be overstated.

Given the importance of maintaining up-to-date documentation at all times, it’s important to have a solution in place that makes it easy for employees to immediately put the documents and any associated emails into the right SharePoint location. In some cases, even a short delay can cause the company to rely on inaccurate information or provide the wrong documents. Even when the information isn’t quite so time sensitive, a delay in saving it to SharePoint can mean that the document gets forgotten and overlooked and is never saved. In those cases, important documentation can become locked in someone’s email inbox, where it can’t help the business.

Organisations need to streamline the process of saving documents and emails into SharePoint. Doing so can potentially avoid embarrassing and expensive breaches, ensuring companies remain compliant with all legislation and other regulations that apply to them. Keeping a true, accurate set of records for legal compliance relies on staff members treating all information and documents appropriately.

Organisations should therefore do two things: they should educate their employees regarding the importance of correct document management, including the requirement that documents are saved into SharePoint; and they should provide a solution that makes it simple to do so in just a few clicks. This can help organisations improve their document management processes across the board, minimising or eliminating the risk of non-compliance due to poor document control.