What is DOCUMENTATION and WHY is it IMPORTANT?
One of the keys to good housekeeping in the business arena is Quality Management System (QMS). Most companies were able to scale, expand and compete further and be successful because they understood and incorporated the essence of QMS.
Quality Management Systems deals with several areas that need to be considered, one of which is Documentation and Records Management that this article would focus.
Documentation talks about the document itself – what is the document all about, to whom the document is intended to, its signatories, when and where will be the document be routed and be in effect. The 5W and 1H questions are tackled. Whereas, Records Management defines the procedure on how documents and records are tracked and how they shall be kept and disposed of. These are two different areas but closely related.
Some companies view the understanding and application of documentation and records management to be complicated and complex. That’s why these companies are more confused and tend to create and keep bulk, unnecessary documents and records instead of making it more simple and streamlined. Application of these two areas should define an efficient and effective way of dealing with documents and records of the companies and not overdo it.
As we go along, we shall observe the CONTROL POINTS that are very important to consider and remember.
I. KEY CONTROL POINTS of Documentation Procedure:
1. SECURE DOCUMENT APPROVAL
- All documents (policies, processes, procedures, reports, guidelines, correspondences, requests, forms, checklists, agreements and the like) must be DULY APPROVE by authorized signatories before release. Email attachments must be adequately SIGNED-OFF too. Without the signature of the approving body, the document is null and void.
2. DOCUMENT REVIEW, UPDATE, AND RE-APPROVE
- All quality documents and company reports shall undergo a REGULAR or PERIODIC REVIEW. This procedure is to show continuous improvement and shall apply and be true to ALL Documents. After review and update, a document must be duly signed-off before release and information dissemination.
- Document review and update are tackled during Management Review and regular Risk Assessment and Quality Internal Audit.
3. DOCUMENT CHANGES AND ITS CURRENT REVISIONS
- This section is one of the primary control points in the documentation. This area covers ALL CHANGES (new, addition, amendment, deletion, improvement) of ALL Documents. Thus before the implementation of any change, it MUST be adequately documented.
- The following image is a comprehensive example of how we apply and measure the control points on how we process Document Change. We shall discuss the Document Change Procedure thoroughly in a separate article.
- Under this area, the department shall only implement the ONLY the approved document with its current revision. More importantly, any significant or critical change in the process, appropriate documentation and signing-off are needed before immediate implementation.
4. DOCUMENT ACCESS
- All relevant versions of documents must be available at the POINT OF USE. This applies to all types of documents, whether printed or electronic. Qualify USER PERMISSION in your documents especially for confidential documents.
- Quality documents, all Master copies shall stay with QMS, controlled copies shall remain with the department of origin, and uncontrolled copies shall be given to respective departments/parties as necessary. For monitoring, QMS shall regularly keep an audit trail.
5. CONTROL ON EXTERNAL DOCUMENTS
- All external documents that are relevant to the company’s operations shall be determined and controlled. These documents are commonly the country’s or the state’s Government Regulations.
- Policies and guidelines should be aligned with the Government’s Regulations especially those that are affected by laws and decrees such as Labor Codes and the like. In this manner, the business can easily scale or expand since the policies made are based and accepted nationwide and/or internationally.
- We must have a printed and compiled clear copy of ALL necessary external documents.
6. CONTROL ON OBSOLETE DOCUMENTS
- QMS shall also control ALL obsolete/old documents to prevent unintended use of these documents. QMS shall retain copies of these documents.
II. KEY CONTROL POINTS of Records Management Procedure:
In Records Management, File Plan Structure is very important. This is the ultimate guide from Records Identification to Records Maintenance. We shall discuss each step thoroughly in a separate article. Below is a sample on how to craft or design a fit file plan structure for your company.
1. RECORDS IDENTIFICATION
- Create/Receive Record
- Determine Function where the document belongs (OPERATIONAL)
- Determine Record Type (VITAL, IMPORTANT, USEFUL AND NON-ESSENTIAL)
- Determine Filing Methodology (ALPHA/CODED)
- Fill –in File Indexing Format
A sample of a File Folder Index:
2. RECORDS DISTRIBUTION AND USAGE
- Proper and timely Circulation of Records (USE OF TRANSMITTAL, LOGBOOK OR THE DOCUMENT ITSELF, ENDORSEMENT; ROUTING SLIP)
- Check usage of document (DOCUMENT CLOSE – ACTIVE/PENDING/TICKLER/PERSONAL)
3. RECORDS CLASSIFICATION (RECORDS INVENTORY)
- Sort and arrange records (5S PRINCIPLE)
- File Records (5S PRINCIPLE)
- Storage and Custody (CENTRALIZED/DECENTRALIZED)
- Determine Retrieval Methodology
- Establish Access and Security (DOCUMENT ACCESS – USER PERMISSION)
4. RECORDS MAINTENANCE (COMPREHENSIVE FILE STRUCTURE PLAN)
- Determine Records Retention (REFER to APPLICABLE RECORDS OR ARCHIVES POLICY as PRACTICED PRIVATELY OR PUBLICLY)
- Determine Manner of Disposition (ON STORAGE/ARCHIVAL/SCAN AND DESTROY/REUSABLE OR RECYCLABLE/SHREDDING)
Documentation and Records Management can be very tedious at the start but can be helpful once the above mentioned essential points are considered and followed. Compliance is vital, but of course, there are few exceptions to the rule guided by the company’s contextual framework.