The running of a business involves a vast amount of documentation. This historically took the form of physical paperwork, stored in filing cabinets or file folders, governed by complex indexing systems and occasionally archived in giant stacks of cardboard boxes. The commercial operations of today have less need of filing cabinets and lever-arch box files, instead benefitting from the technical advancements that have delivered digital documentation. These data files still need to be stored, though, and while most are necessary, some are more vital to the effective operation of your enterprise than others.
What are management documents?
The management documents of your business relate to the actual day-to-day governance of the operation. These files contain the information, processes and procedures agreed by senior management and stakeholders as being the fundamental building blocks of the company. They set out the way forward in any given circumstance and make clear the overall goals and objectives of the business. Most importantly, they are the seeds of the company culture, helping to set both the tone, and the overall priorities of the organisation. Management documents will vary according to business type, but may include:
- Business insurance
It is a legal requirement for all businesses to have insurance. Business insurance policies will detail the circumstances covered by the insurance and should include employer liability and public liability at the most basic level. This is intended to address the risk of accidental damage, injury or death posed to staff and members of the public by the operation of the business and its workforce. It is also advisable to have coverage that deals with theft, malicious damage, sabotage, natural disaster, poor management, compliance violations, misconduct, breaches of contract, and copyright issues. The correct storage of your business insurance documents is of paramount importance because they will need to be accessed quickly and easily in the event of a situation that results in a claim being made.
- Employment contract
The employment contract will be the standard document that sets out the obligations and expectations of both company and employee, in the event of a new team member being recruited. These documents must be stored centrally, because they need to be accessed by more than one department. Employment agreements contain details that concern accounting, human resources, and health and safety, along with the department to which the person in question was recruited. Relevant personnel from each of these business areas would have legitimate and urgent reason to access employment contracts.
- Business plan
Whether you are just starting out or are well-established within your industry, you must have a business plan. This is the document that set out all ideas, strategies and methods intended to achieve your objective. It should include all elements that take your business forward, in terms of future growth, and will be of particular interest to potential investors, as well as current stakeholders. Internally, it is also an important tool for future-proofing the operation and should be reviewed regularly. This means its storage is very important to the long-term success and sustainability of the business.
- Board resolutions
As part of the regular production and storage of Board meeting minutes, Board resolutions should be properly documented and stored. These are specific decisions that are taken and agreed during Board meetings and can consequently have significant impact on the operation and direction of the company. Areas such as resource management, Board appointments, and financial changes can all form part of Board resolutions, so a careful record must be maintained, and made accessible to authorised personnel.
- Continuity planning
Business continuity is a vital element of corporate planning, which can form part of a bespoke and comprehensive business plan, but which should also be formatted in such a way as to be its own document. The purpose of a continuity plan is to enable the business to maintain operations during periods of disruption – whether that is a natural disaster, a warehouse fire, or global pandemic. This document should set out clearly the processes and procedures to be enacted and followed in the event of threat or disruption to the day-to-day functioning of the company and its workforce, taking into account the obligations to fulfil contracts for clients as well as personnel. The nature of the continuity plan means it must be easily accessible in emergency situations, so its storage location must be effectively communicated at all times. It is designed to be enacted in unforeseen circumstances, so senior leadership and heads of department should be able to use it at a moment’s notice.
- Trademark documentation
Every item of Intellectual Property held within your business – including the brand itself – should be protected by a trademark, with associated documentation securely stored. This ensures that the brand, product or service that is unique to your business are unlikely to be stolen, because such an act would incur legal action. By that same token, should a theft of Intellectual Property occur, trademark documentation provides evidence in legal proceedings as to the veracity of claims of ownership.
- Compliance documentation
Certain management documents form part of compliance requirements, which means they must be stored securely. These might include the Certificate of Incorporation, proving that the business is properly and officially registered to operate; the Memorandum of Association, outlining the parameters of the commercial operation, its rights and privileges, and those of the shareholders; Articles of Association, setting out the company bylaws that dictate the rules around directorships, board membership, accounting, and auditing. In the event of a compliance audit, inspection or complaint, it is vital that compliance documentation be immediately accessed, in order to prove that regulations and obligations are being met.
- Company policy
The company policy is essentially the company rulebook. It is agreed by senior management and stakeholders and is reviewed an amended regularly as part of an agreed timetable. It details everything from client relationships to employee conduct, and what the statutory policies of the organisation are. This management document must be stored securely and made accessible to authorised personnel. Copies should be provided to all new appointees, which means that the document should be easy to retrieve as recruitment processes are undertaken, and corporate inductions are completed.
The difference between document storage and document management
Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, document storage and document management are two things that are quite different. Document management is an ongoing process that allows for the automation of workflows through milestone notifications and alerts, and also tighter control of document versioning. Document management uses the files as a data source, enabling advanced search techniques, automatic archiving, and the creation of automated audit trails. Document storage, by contrast, is the creation of that pool of data. It is the centralisation and collation of management documents, building a vital data set for use in document management tasks and processes.
So, document storage and document management are closely related and, indeed, can be seen as two stages of the same process. The documents must first be stored correctly and in the most optimal way before they can be used in document management tasks. In this way, document storage can be a significant contributor to overall efficiencies in the lifecycle of management documents. If storage is correctly achieved, then management of the documents is streamlined and less time-consuming, because they can be identified within the system more quickly.
The role of meta data
Meta data plays an important role in the storage of your management documents. With such a large range of files covering a variety of areas of operation, it is essential to properly categorise those files within the storage system to allow for document management processes to be undertaken going forward. Meta data is data about data, which means that management document meta data details what the data contained in the document represents, the form it takes, and the connections it has to other data and documents.
The meta data process is a little more involved than simply adding keywords to documents within your storage system, however. You first need to agree a meta data strategy that will be maintained consistently across the organisation as part of company policy. This ensures that document storage methods and file locations are used by, and kept accessible to all authorised personnel. Onwardly, this approach provides the basis for document management that is useful, functional, and fit for purpose.
The correct and careful storage of management documents provides assurance of document integrity – that is, it confirms that the information contained inside each document has not been subject to unauthorised changes. This is essential for all business documentation but is especially important for management documents. These are the files that govern financial management protocols and shareholder benefits, for example, not to mention salary policy and health and safety procedures. If such documents were to be altered without the permission, knowledge or agreement of senior management and board members, significant financial and reputational losses could occur in the long-term.
When it comes to the management documents of your business, Contract Management Software provides an excellent solution to all storage issues. The software, such as Symfact, is designed around a centralised repository, which means that all documentation is pooled together for more efficient use. As a browser-based platform, the software utilises permission-based access, meaning that only authorised personnel can access the documents using any web-enabled device in any internet-connected location. This enables close, real-time collaboration, but also enables everything required to assure the integrity of the documents.
- Audit trails
With permission-based access comes automated audit trails. Every action, change, and search undertaken within the platform is recorded and collated in a comprehensive log of activity. This not only helps the business to meet compliance regulations, but also ensures that all attempts to access the documentation are transparent, and all users are fully accountable. This provides a very high level of data security and assures the integrity of management documents.
- Accurate versioning
Since all activity is accurately logged, every version of the management documents can be traced and checked as necessary. Personnel can be sure that they are reviewing the most up-to-date version of company policies, procedures, and continuity planning, which is vital in emergency situations, as well as in the regular, day-to-day running of the business.
- Granular filtration
The customised reporting feature of Contract Management Software is fully configurable and provides data analysis and insights - from the broad categorisation of data, to a more granular level of reporting. In the case of management documents, this means that authorised personnel can filter documentation for version numbers, specific amendments, and particular updates to corporate policy. This feature is largely dependent upon the accurate and consistent use of meta data, which should be agreed and applied at a senior management and board level.
The Symfact solution
When the challenge posed concerns both security and access, Symfact Contract Management Software is the ideal solution. Though it boasts a platform design that enables fast and efficient collaboration, it also features a high level of protection and privacy, delivered by cutting edge encrypted data transfer. This ensures that your management documents are safe from unauthorised changes but are fully accessible to authorised personnel at all times – even when working remotely.
In a wider context, Symfact Contract Management Software provides a range of other benefits for the storage of your management documents. The platform can be tailored to the specific needs of your operation, ensuring that your particular requirements for document storage are incorporated and supported. Moreover, the platform is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing systems, including a drag-and-drop interface for the secure movement of files, and the embedding of editable Microsoft Word templates for ongoing document generation. Added to all of these features is the fact that Symfact can help to reduce your operating costs, thanks to its streamlined and efficient approach which includes online, electronic signatures. This makes Symfact a solution that can boost the ‘green’ credentials of your business, and reduce its carbon footprint. Contact Symfact today to discuss the needs of your business, and to arrange a software demonstration.