Remember the last time you moved? The anxiety of having to pack up your belongings? The anticipation of a new location? The feeling of accomplishment when all of it was all over? Well, I am reminded of all of those sensations because we just signed a lease to move our company to a new and larger office. Anxiety is beginning to set in as I prepare to identify all of the tasks that lie ahead as we plan for the big move. Things like notifying vendors, clients and utilities of the move. Planning for a buildout with contractors and selecting new furniture to fit both the new space and the needs of our employees. Packing up and moving existing furniture and tech items. My list quickly became long and detailed which reminded me that there is a lot to get done before May 1st.
There are also some good things that come out of moving. One, is that this is a great time to declutter and rid yourself of items that have not been used for some time. Now I admit that I am a bit of a pack rat, so for me this process is bitter sweet. I know that I need to get rid of things and this move will be the incentive that I need to get things done.
So, what does all of this have to do with document management? Well, too many organizations get caught in saving documents well beyond what is legally necessary. They either have backer’s boxes of legacy paper, or a document management system in which no records management thought was given when it was originally designed. Documents saved beyond their legal destruction date not only take up unnecessary space and cost you money, but they also open up a company to potential litigation.
If an organization is sued, specific documents may be used as evidence in court. Even records that are beyond their legal retention limits may be considered accessible, if they are deemed pertinent to the case and are still available. So how do you protect yourself? Use record retention techniques and software programs to monitor and destroy these documents. If you are using a document management system, check to see if it has an available records management module. Also remember to purge records not only from the system itself, but also from backup servers and other media, such as tape. Any trace of these documents can spell trouble for you and your company. Keep in mind, that if you are using e-forms and workflow, that the system may retain information pertaining to the use of the documents within the database. The only true way to purge this information would be through a records management module for that system.
One side note on record retention. Always consult with your company’s legal counsel before deciding which documents to keep and which to destroy. This can be a slipper slope if done incorrectly. Consulting an expert in this manner may have some upfront costs, but could save you significant dollars in the future.
So, leave your inner packrat for more important items like your high school scrapbook and college notebooks. But pay close attention to how long you save your documents, either in paper or digitally.
Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at email@example.com.