Friday, March 20, 2015

Records Management Necessary for Organizations Small and Large

Records Management (RM) or Electronic Records Management (ERM) has become a more important system and solution for companies of all sizes, small and large, non-profits and other organizations. In the world of big data and the cloud, many small and midsize businesses are now facing the same kind of struggle that, at one time, only large enterprises faced: trying to wrangle entangled web of records. 

Record-keeping can be a nightmare, especially if it involves a lot of paper documentation. Document scanners have been introduced within the market to make the process of digitizing those documents easier, but a robust system of keeping digital records is still necessary to provide security, efficiency and consistency throughout the organization.

Business Objectives and Records Management

Records management objectives are related to achieving something the organization has set out to do or to save money and time. It could be both. Effective and efficient service is an integral part of this formula for RM objectives most of the time. Organizations should be working to make processes better for their customers or clients, but also for their internal members or staff. 

Avoiding heavy costs is always a goal for any organization, and cost avoidance is necessary to making a profit or staying in business. Social responsibility is one of the most important of objectives related to RM and includes moral, ethical and legal responsibility to maintain secure, confidential, and accessible records. Hospitals, government agencies, and other organizations must have good operating records management in order to serve the public interest.

Programs used for management of records should manage the information in a highly organized and easy to understand fashion so it can be timely, accurate, affordable, complete, usable and accessible. Business will run much smoother this way and less time and energy will be expended on searching for an important record or related documents.

The Growth of Data and Records

The growth in data these days is purely amazing and exponential. Because the amount of information and records will keep growing at all organizations, particularly successful ones, it will be necessary to manage the records effectively as well as efficiently.

Controlling the amount of paperwork is one thing, but managing the ability to generate more is another. This also includes digital forms. Effective ERM attempts to control creation of documents that may not add value to information or are duplicate. Retaining the records is important, however, so whatever program or method used must not be faulty or ineffective, otherwise there could be trouble with lost records and so forth.

The Preservation Effort is Continuous

Keeping records, like doing your taxes, is an ongoing process and one that can be continuously improved over time, either through internal processes or new program implementation (software).

Safeguarding vital data is important for nearly any organization, public or private. Comprehensive programs for protecting these important records from danger or disaster is essential because every organization is vulnerable to losses like this. Functioning as part of the records management program, vital records programs preserve integrity and confidentiality of the most sensitive data. They also keep these information assets safe according to a record protection plan.

Preserving the corporate memory or organization’s history is also important. An organization's data contains its institutional record, an asset important to the integrity of the institution but often overlooked by its various members. Each business day, records are created that could become templates or catalysts for future decisions or important plans. The records document the activities of your organization and may provide insight for future teams. They may also lead to other innovations.

Compliance and Legal Safeguards

Much of the records retention efforts made by companies or organizations have to do with compliance or avoiding lawsuits. Legal teams are often heavily involved in making recommendations on records management.

The United States is the most regulated country in terms of record keeping requirements across various industries in the private sector and agencies in the public sector. To ensure compliance, organizations need to follow a well-defined legal and organizational framework. Compliance laws can create major issues since they can be quite difficult to implement without a proper program or procedure. All members of the organization need to be kept in the loop, too. Failing to comply with these requirements and regulations could result in expensive costs for the organization such as fines and penalties.

Organizations also need to minimize risks of litigation. Implementing ERM program to deal specifically with records can reduce much of the liability associated with record keeping and document disposal or destruction. Routine and regular disposal at intervals in the cycle of doing business is vital to ensuring legal protection. Policies should be drafted to ensure these demands are met as well.

Better Business Performance Through Record Keeping

Business efforts that are streamlined are always better and lead organizations of all sizes and types to success if implementing the proper programs, policies and procedures. The same is true for documentation and record keeping.

Good ERM will certainly help reduce operating costs, even though that may seem like the opposite of the truth. It is likely that records management will save time and money, however, in the long run. Searching for lost records, including staff labor and other costs, can quickly damage the ability to efficiently run the operation. Organizations can save a lot of time and money by both investing in ERM and setting forth information policies that make sense. Staff time will also be spent more productively and staff stress will also be reduced by such efforts. An effective and usable index and filing system can make all the difference in the world to productivity.

Assimilating new RM technologies with existing processes can also streamline the organization’s information handling needs. The current technology should be audited to analyze its usefulness before implementing any new automated systems. Also, you may need to take a look at the manual way of doing it before automating to ensure reliability and proper functionality of the system. The manual procedure might even need improvement, so look there first. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What is Usability and How Does it Relate to Business?

Your business is relying more heavily on technology than it ever has, and it is likely to continue in that direction. But in order for your technology to work for your business and make it successful, there must be at least some degree of usefulness to your technology.

That may sound like a no-brainer at first, considering that it is the entire reason your business has adopted technology. However, a surprising number of enterprises fail to adhere to usability and user design principles. Usability, as it suggests, is the field of studying a document’s usefulness to the user. How easy is the website to navigate? Is there enough white space? Is information structured logically? Are elements easy to find? These are just some of the questions a usability test might attempt to answer.

Schedule a Usability Test

If you want your organization to succeed, and you want to improve the quality of your information, consider scheduling a usability test with participants that will offer insight into your publications or information systems. The results of the test should help you determine the areas of your information and design that need to be improved. It can help establish what works and what doesn’t work. Web usability testing is the most common type of usability test, that is usability testing of a website. Any type of document or information system can be put to the test, however, internal or external. A consultant that is familiar with usability testing can test for these issues.

The Era of Responsive Design

User design has become a major development over the years in websites, applications and other information systems. The idea is to make information as easy and intuitive to understand and access as possible. Two terms have developed in this field: User interaction (UI) and User Experience (UX). UI refers to the usefulness of an application or site’s functionality as it relates to the user, and user experience refers to the form or design aspects that help the user locate information or appreciate the visual quality of the content. Usability testing can help determine if your UI/UX should be improved and how.

Eye Tracking

Eye tracking, believe it or not, has been employed as a way of studying usability for decades. Google uses eye tracking to study the interaction between a user and their behavior on a webpage to determine the best way to serve ads to users online. Eye tracking works by providing a heatmap that can visually display user behavior, such as where their eyes spent the most time observing elements on a page.

This data is important for organizations to understand where their users are going on their websites or other documents and how they are interacting with them. Most of the content in the right-hand column of many pages, for example, is often unnoticed or less noticed than content on the left, or at the very top of the page. Users spend very little time attempting to locate data online. On mobile devices, the time frame is even shorter. You must catch the user’s attention immediately, literally.

Information Context and Logic

Information should have context and proper logic if anyone is ever expected to try to understand it. Usability testing can help make sure that information is not only relevant and useful, but that its context and logic follow guidelines on how content should be created and implemented.

The information itself has to be of good quality to start with. Bad information tends to be ignored, especially in today’s culture of fast-paced computer-based interactions. The metrics for usability should not stop at the screen. In other words, it’s not all just about design. Design must be handled appropriately, but information quality, context and logic are just as important because that is the treasure inside the packaging that the user expects to acquire.

Information must follow logical order in terms of navigation, themes, key ideas, narration, order of operations, etc. These elements are extremely important to users who have expectations of how information should be presented to them. Their assumptions should guide your inspiration for method and mode of delivery.

Maintain Reputation and Trust

A part of usability that is rarely discussed is trust and reputation. These are important factors as digital technology becomes involved in nearly all facets of life today. Now, Google, the largest search engine and search enterprise, rewards websites with better search rank if they have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification. That shows you how important this has become. The Internet is threatened by criminals and others who are making legitimate business difficult with their scams.

Getting a SSL certificate is one way to maintain your security, reliability and reputation. It also will build some trust. Using sub-domains rather than an actual primary domain for your company is another reason users will not trust your business. Your business should have its own domain. Company information like addresses, phone numbers, staff names, company biographies and author biographies also help reinforce trust.

Other Elements for Usability

Information architecture is important for usability. One important element is page outline and mechanics. Users like to see information laid out on the page very organized and clear, so they can index the information for what they need and ignore what they don’t (immediately) need. Breaking content up into clear titles/subtitles, callout boxes, bulleted or numbered lists and other page design elements will improve the quality of your information and if it is hosted on a public website, it will even rank higher in Google and other search services.

Social media is also become part of the usability process. Is content easy to share online?

Also, examine the content’s links and other elements for consistency and clarity. Approach each element with a cautious editor’s eye to make sure that the elements are working as much to the user’s advantage as possible.