Keeping and maintaining the records that are important to your business is crucial to the running, and survival, of your company. An effective business manager must make records management part of their responsibility. If an important document goes missing, it can cause delays. It can invite tension into the workplace or block important deals. It can even result in lawsuits being levelled at the company.

But an intelligently-contrived records management system does not just keep and maintain documents, it also considers when they must be destroyed.

The reason why is that there are potential dangers to keeping too many documents. Especially if your document management system is not discerning when it comes to what is stored.

The dangers of keeping too many records:

As data protection and the rights to data privacy are considered and developed worldwide, new laws are being passed that will drastically effect records management.

Here in Kenya, the government’s most recent amendment to data protection came in 2019. The 2019 Data Protection Act – a breakdown of which you can access here – was modelled on the European Union’s latest piece of legislation in the same sphere.

Kenya’s Data Protection Act is the latest and most obvious sign that the Kenyan government, and the people it represents, are becoming increasingly aware of the need to formalise and legislate for people’s privacy in this era of mass data collection.

So, how will this affect companies?

The 2019 Data Protection Act stipulated at length about what kinds of data were allowed to be processed by those doing so – including, by not limited to, businesses. It also clarified on what rights the person on whom the data is being compiled has over how that data is processed, kept and handled.

Here in Kenya, the person who has data compiled on them must be informed of this data being stored. Furthermore, they also have the right to ask to be shown the data and can even request that it is edited or deleted.

Companies who store records on customers or employees will be expected to find all this information and be able to deliver it to the requestee quickly. There is reason to suspect that as data protection rules strengthen, fines on slow delivery of these documents may be handed out regularly.

The increased agency for scrutiny that is given to the person whose data is being stored means that companies will have to modernise their records management system to ensure they are compliant. A company does not want to fail to keep up with data protection laws simply because their records management system is slow or inefficient.

Furthermore, the 2019 data protection act stipulated tighter controls on what can actually be stored. And commentators expect even tighter laws in the future. For businesses that simply store all the paper records that they create – thinking, perhaps, that someday any document may come in useful – this could be a danger.

Businesses have to be discerning when it comes to what they put into storage. Every piece of paper, every record and document, has to be sorted to ensure that it wasn’t illegal to collect and process it in the first place.

Got any files or boxes lying about? Can you be sure of the contents within?

This is why the strengthening of data protection rights is so important to understand. Businesses could potentially be storing records that were illegally created. And all because they could not find the time to take a look through the boxes they have in storage.

This is perhaps the most pressing reason why businesses should create and adhere to a strict records management system. All files, wherever they are stored, take up space and, in the business world, inefficiency is often an added cost. Cost-efficiency is important to every business, but being compliant with the law is even more so.

So, if you are a business owner or operator, consider your document management strategy. If it is not optimal, you’re business, at the least, is storing records that it does not need to. Therefore creating costs, clogging up office space or creating timely delays if those records are ever needed for retrieval.

In the worst case scenario, your business is sitting on a ticking time bomb that will go off if ever a data protection lawsuit is levelled its way.

Know when to maintain and when to destroy your records – have a read of this article.

If you have concerns about your company’s document management system, have a read of this article on how to redesign it more strategically.