How to use technology to cope with data management

Constantly evolving technology and legislation is changing how business works. Recent events at Facebook have put data handling and management at the centre of public discussion, with customers wanting to know more about the information that businesses are holding on them. This resulted in reputation damage, as well as a loss of trust amongst Facebook users – but what are the wider challenges of data management?

It’s the hot topic of the moment, with the pending GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) putting a lot of focus on data and document management in a bigger way than it has been for a long time. While there’s a great deal of advice available to SMEs on the topic - some conflicting - one thing is clear, now is as good a time as any for organisations to review their data management structure, policies and procedures.

As well as complying with pending legislation, taking this approach can deliver wider benefits for businesses. The regulation can be seen as an opportunity to use data more efficiency, which is particularly the case when it comes to document management.

Digitising documents can help improve efficiency, information security and productivity. Across all sectors this is crucial, as customers want to see accurate record keeping and trust businesses they are dealing with. The challenge for realising such benefits can be, where to start?

Digitising documents

Business technology solutions provider Brother UK conducted research(1) to better understand document management in SMEs. They were surprised to find that, while almost 3 in 4 SMEs (72 per cent) still keep paper records containing customer information, more than a quarter (28 per cent) haven’t reviewed their paper management policy in over three years. Concerns about the implications of that for data protection regulation are one thing, but business leaders could also be missing a trick when it comes to efficiently and securely managing their documents.

The Brother UK research also showed that almost two thirds of SMEs (65 per cent) say they’re planning to digitise their documents ahead of 25th May 2018, when GDPR becomes law. A successful route to digitisation begins with understanding how your organisation is using paper. Businesses can carry out a print audit, which will identify where paper may be being used inefficiently and highlight areas where digitising documents could help to address this.

While paper records are a requirement for some heavily regulated sectors, public bodies like HRMC are continuously updating their guidance to allow for less reliance on hard copies and more on digitisation. Archives can therefore be searched quicker, with all the information in one place, rather than employees trying to track down paper documents. As well as improving efficiencies and supporting compliance, the positive benefits of fast data searching can help to provide a much more seamless experience for customers.

Improving security

Customers are increasingly wanting to access their records online via mobile or tablet devices. Those firms that have all this data readily available through digitised documents will improve customer satisfaction, which can create a competitive advantage.

Alongside this, digitising hard copies can also help companies improve their information security and stop sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. When people hear about data and IT breaches, they often think about hacking or other external elements, but 25 per cent are caused by careless, negligent or malicious insiders with legitimate access to systems(2).

Companies can use scanner technologies to restrict personnel access, helping prevent unauthorised scanning and distribution of scanned documents. Secure scanning can be set-up to stop documents being scanned to external devices like USBs, providing companies with better control over what information leaves their systems and offices. As well as reducing security breaches and protecting business integrity, these steps help demonstrate accountability. Some of the key provisions of GDPR are designed to promote improved governance and transparency to better protect customer data. Scanning solutions can prove an effective step towards this.  

Customer rights and GDPR

GDPR will introduce the right to be forgotten. This can prove difficult to achieve if too many records are kept as hard copies, as it is problematic to demonstrate, as well as time consuming to manage. Simply being able to delete digitised records will help companies to overcome these challenges. This improves efficiencies.

One of the other key aspects of GDPR will be the right of data portability – providing individuals with a copy of their personal data. The information will have to be provided in an organised and readable-by-machine format, within one month of any application. Having digitised documents will save businesses from spending time searching through huge volumes of paper records and enable them to meet customer demands at the simple click of a few buttons.

Mobile working

IT security is often seen as an issue that only really affects larger companies, but this is not the case, with as many as 875,000 UK SMEs suffering a cyber security breach in 2017(3). Mobile devices create another layer that companies need to consider and safeguard. Research by Brother UK(4) revealed 51 per cent of businesses plan to grow field workforces within the next five years, meaning the number of mobile devices is set to rise with it.

As well as the usual mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, businesses should also consider mobile printers and scanners. Brother’s research shows that 37 per cent of SMEs are planning to invest in mobile scanners, while 19 per cent are turning to mobile printers. For the rise of mobile hardware to be productive, it needs to be incorporated into existing office IT infrastructure and the associated security measures. This integration and connectivity will promote secure digitisation beyond just office locations, enabling businesses to enhance document and data management throughout their entire network. 

Compliance, productivity and efficiency

Having documents digitised offers much more than helping with GDPR compliance. It allows remote workers to have access to the information they require to perform their role just as well as they could if they were sat in the office.

While it is likely paper will always play a part in some business processes, going digital now could pay dividends in the future. Legislation is changing and the environment businesses are working in is becoming increasingly flexible. The ability to have the most up to date information to hand in an organised and secure place, whenever it is needed, will not only support with GDPR compliance, but can help companies work in the most efficient way possible.