How ECM Can Help Ease The Burden Of Compliance

There is no doubt that compliance is a headache to deal with, especially when it comes to maintaining it while using paper-based processes. With the increasing levels of compliance regulations and required audits, keeping track of necessary documents is vital for your business. 

When it comes to paper documents, the need for quick retrieval in an event such as an audit can be a nightmare for many. This could potentially mean disaster for your business. Failure to produce the needed documents could put you at risk of being non compliant. 

What is ECM?

Enterprise content management (ECM) systems are repositories of secure and searchable electronic documents and records that are captured and stored. There is so much more to ECM systems than basic document imaging tools to scan and store paper records.  You can manage your documents, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. The introduction of an ECM system into a company's workflow allows employees and business processes to operate more efficiently.  

ECM and Compliance

Having the right ECM system can allow you to proactively manage regulation compliance and enforce consistent document compliance standards across multi-office teams, remote workers and contractors. From the moment that your digital records are created, you are able to auto-file according to industry regulations and corporate policies. You can choose to retain, transfer, archive or destroy records based on the record type, as well as having the ability to group records in series based on their retention and disposition schedules.  You can auto-classify, apply disposition schedules and other regulatory retention rules using metadata and other information on incoming records.  

Automation makes it easy to manage the entire document life-cycle so that you're able to remove documents that have met their retention requirements with just a click of a mouse. When it comes time for final disposition, all the records with the same cutoff eligibility date will be eligible for disposition on the same date, enabling you to process hundreds of records in one batch instead of one record at a time.

In an increasingly-demanding regulatory environment, a document management system can help limit exposure to civil and criminal liability stemming from non-compliance with regulatory statutes by ensuring the consistent application policies organization-wide and by providing audit reports.

It is important to realize that technology itself cannot guarantee compliance. The essence of compliance lies in the application of systematic policies and procedures established by your organization to maintain, protect and provide access to business-essential records. To be truly valuable as a compliance tool, technology must be flexible and secure enough to support the complex record-keeping procedures required in a multi-regulatory environment.

While laws and auditing authorities vary by industry and state or region, most regulations share two common principles: the information must be set in time, meaning that the date and time of creation of the digital images must be recorded in an unalterable fashion, and the storage media used by the system must be unalterable. In some areas, such as financial planning, a copy of the records must be maintained by an independent third party and be readily available to auditors when requested.

In order to meet general compliance demands, a document management system must:

  • Allow documents and records to be retrieved on demand.
  • Store digital images on acceptable media.
  • Maintain records in an unalterable format.
  • Permit a complete and accurate transfer of records.
  • Possess reasonable controls to ensure integrity, accuracy and reliability.
  • Have reasonable control to prevent and detect the unauthorized creation, alteration or deletion of records, as well as record deterioration.
  • Contain an indexing system that facilitates document retrieval.
  • Be able to print copies of records when required.
  • Make cross-referencing with other record-keeping systems and software possible.
  • Have documentation on how the software work and how it is set up.