A business record is any formal documentation of a business activity, event, action, decision, or discussion. Business records are storable, retrievable pieces of information that can serve as official records for a company’s operations, both internal and external. They can be hard copy, digital, or both.
Business records are often legal requirements to ensure that a business is complying with all statutory and regulatory laws in its contracts, sales, relationships, and filings, and also help protect a business in case of any necessary legal action. Records can also be valuable internally, as a way of assisting with enterprise operations, maintaining institutional knowledge, improving employee onboarding, and more.
Businesses acquire and create numerous types of information every day, in a wide range of areas and topics. Notable types of business records are:
Depending on its contents and intended use, a business record can be incredibly sensitive, full of high-level business intelligence and/or personally identifiable information (PII) for leadership and personnel. It can also be a routine, non-critical process or operations guideline.
Given the quantities of information companies may produce every day, businesses need to be careful about how they store, use, and access their records. Some common best practices include:
Companies, regardless of their size, can benefit from a formalized records management program. The scope and structure of this program can vary. In smaller companies, this may be a single person responsible for overseeing all aspects of record-keeping. In larger organizations, the program could involve multiple departments or specialized teams, each focusing on different types of records. The key responsibilities of these resources should include setting and updating policies for accurate record-keeping and secure storage, ensuring compliance with those policies, and taking corrective action when discrepancies are identified.
Storage is a critical component of business records management. Companies should dictate how records are stored and where, and train employees accordingly. Whether a piece of information is electronic or paper, there should also be adequate backups in place in case a database crashes or a physical filing location is compromised.
Not all pieces of information are appropriate for every employee to have access to. Records should be differentiated by sensitivity and importance, and all employees should be assigned a permission level based on their level of responsibility. Ideally, employees should be granted the exact level of access they need to do their everyday jobs.
Storing large amounts of records can be costly and time-consuming, so businesses should have separate policies for their removal—often known as purging. Certain types of information, such as legal or financial documents, may need to be stored for a predetermined time in accordance with relevant laws. Other types of information may depend purely on business preference(s). Regardless, when a record is no longer necessary, there should be a process for its confidential removal and destruction.