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Managing your data and records: Time to make it a priority

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Authorities will be able to check these policies at any time and non-compliance could result in significant fines of up to two per cent of a company’s turnover.

Practically, this means business owners should get up to speed on the new Regulations as quickly as possible, understanding exactly how their business will be impacted and, ideally, appointing someone internally who is responsible for designing and implementing a new company procedure which is compliant. Companies of a certain size are likely to be required to appoint someone who is accountable for this.

Smaller businesses especially can take some very practical steps towards being compliant and making their office a lot more organised at the same time. Firstly, this could involve investing in a storage facility whether on site or off site which is organised, audited and accessible.

Then, something as simple as a reliable document management system, can vastly simplify the whole process. Understanding which documents you really need to keep and which you need to systematically dispose of will help to reclaim valuable office space, prevent costly paper accumulation as well as meeting the requirements of legislation.

Businesses like Fellowes have been providing document storage to companies across the world for over 100 years through its Bankers Box range. It is keen to demystify the complexities of how businesses can hold and store information effectively.

Fellowes makes the case that records management is not just about effective storage, but also about relevant archiving and simple retrieval systems which allow a business to access the information it needs fast. Information should be categorised by subject matter, importance and date. The company offers a step-by-step guide to effective records management for business on its website via an online handbook.

Steve Hickey from Fellowes explains that the new EU Regulations offer business owners a unique opportunity to reassess their current records, get organised and stay organised in future.

He comments: “Understanding where to start can often be the biggest hurdle for businesses. We’d recommend that companies begin by auditing what information they currently hold, what they need to keep and where it is located. If the amount of old records the company keeps proves to be a daunting task then businesses should think about breaking this down into smaller, more manageable projects.

“Next, businesses need to understand what they need to do with this information to allow them to comply with legal, business and regulatory requirements, referring to or creating a company policy which covers the retention of information if possible.

“Ensure documents are stored in an appropriate format and medium. Investing in a comprehensive and integrated range of storage products, such as purpose-fit boxes and units, transfer files, magazine files, moving boxes and portable filing can help make this process easier. Putting paper-work in a plain box marked ‘keep me’ will not benefit your business in the long term.

“Storage needs to be durable and strong as once you’ve made the commitment to get organised and invested the resources make it happen, the last thing you need is you need is flimsy cardboard letting you down, collapsing, deteriorating or being at increased risk of accidental damage, he said.”

While the EU Regulations are intended to protect information about individuals specifically, this legislation also offers a clear opportunity for SMEs to get their administrative houses in order by rethinking what information they keep on all aspects of their business. Many SMEs are not paper-free businesses and even more of those who aspire to be are some way off that target.

‘Re-organise company filing’ may well be on your ‘to do’ list but here’s betting it’s been on there for a while. It doesn’t take Alan Sugar to tell you that if you’re running a business, it helps to know where important documents are filed and to be able to lay your hands on them quickly. Blowing the dust off old files and revisiting all types of old company records might just throw up a fresh idea or a new lead. More efficient and well run office space may be the silver lining of this legislative burden on the small business owner manager.

For more information from Fellowes about effective records management for your business, visit the Bankers Box website where you can find hints and tips along with a free to download Records Management Handbook.

Martin Smith MBE is Chairman and Founder of The Security Company (International) Limited.

Join Real Business and Martin Smith MBE for a live Twitter Q&A session on Friday February 7 at 11am – find out more and submit your questions here.

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