How schools can improve data compliance with document management and retention systems

15 Feb 2022

Managing documentation in schools can be a minefield of compliance-related and legislative requirements. With different rules applying to retention and deletion of different types of documents, schools can struggle under the weight of the requirements.

In many cases, schools have been operating for many decades, so they have a mix of paper-based and digital records. Maintaining these records correctly can be more than just a matter of compliance; many schools are called to account for events that occurred decades ago, as evidenced by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Being able to provide accurate and comprehensive records can help schools demonstrate that they have acted appropriately in all instances.

Some types of files should be destroyed soon after students have left the school, while others must be retained until the student reaches a certain age or a certain time period has passed (often seven years). However, if there are records that could ever be called for in a criminal investigation, then the school would be advised to retain them indefinitely.

The need to retain data can put considerable strain on a school’s resources, especially when those resources are limited. So, it’s essential to consider how the school intends to manage documents into the future. A digital approach is generally considered best practice because it eliminates the need for physical storage space (and the risks associated with paper-based documents) and can provide better information security and retention processes.

Challenges associated with on-the-fly data management

Schools can be fast-paced environments with teachers and other staff members creating documents for various purposes, then uploading them to their own Google Drive or OneDrive location. This creates numerous silos and stretched IT teams don’t always have a rigorous governance plan in place.

When this happens, people can struggle to find the correct version of documents. They may not be able to track sensitive documents that are subject to compliance requirements, which means data could be destroyed or retained when it shouldn’t be. This can also mean that data can be exfiltrated or sent to unauthorised parties without the school’s knowledge or consent.

The benefits of a modern document management and retention system

It’s essential to manage documents and information through a compliance architecture that protects the school from inadvertently mismanaging data. A governance system can overlay rules and policies based on regulations and best practice, ensuring the school complies with all relevant legislation.

There are four key benefits of this approach:

1. Information security

Much of the information managed by schools includes private data such as students’ personal information. A document management system can flag that information automatically, then apply retention policies so that the data cannot be deleted too soon and is destroyed when the retention period is finished.

These systems can also apply data loss prevention tools that stop staff members from emailing the documents to unauthorised email addresses, which would open the door to data breach threats.

2. Compliance through templates

When documentation is created using pre-prepared templates, retention and destruction policies can be applied automatically. With a template repository, users can standardise their documents easily and be assured that they will be protected with an appropriate level of security.

3. Approval workflows

Many documents must go through a two-, three-, or four-stage approval process. Managing this workflow manually can be burdensome and time consuming, and it can lead to errors. A document management system can automate this process and avoid situations where various documents are being emailed as attachments, creating different versions and issues with accuracy.

4. Version control and access

Managing access to documents as well as ensuring version control can be overwhelming for schools. By turning on version history and auditing, using templates, and using a single repository instead of allowing silos to form, schools can overcome these challenges.

Implementing a modern document management and retention system

Most schools already have Microsoft 365 licensing for free or at a nominal cost, which means they have access to powerful document management and retention tools. By implementing a Microsoft 365-based document management and retention system, schools can use the search function to find the documents they need instantly and can apply data compliance policies to control document retention and information security. Using the Microsoft Teams Approvals app and Power Automate flows, schools can automate document approval processes, saving time and ensuring accuracy.

Konica Minolta recently implemented this solution for an organisation that manages more than 100 schools. The organisation is digitising paper-based files dating back decades, and applying information security, search, and retention policies to these documents. The space previously used to store physical archives has now been freed up for curriculum-based activities.

The solution also gives staff members secure access to documents and information when working remotely, which has become more important during the coronavirus pandemic. It forms a strong baseline for future digital transformation projects that will make the schools more efficient and information-savvy.

To find out how Konica Minolta can deliver these benefits to your school, contact the team today.



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