I recently caught a couple of episodes of Hoarders on A&E TV. If you’ve never seen the show before each episode documents the story of someone who has trouble parting with their belongings to the point where it has a significant negative impact on their lives often resulting in personal health risks.
As I watched the show I started to recognize parallels with the problems we see with the way that organizations handle documents, and while these organizational problems may not pose a personal health risk, a tendency to hoard documents can represent a significant risk to the health of the organization.
Take a moment to stop and think about all of the places where documents exist in your organization. You’re probably thinking of filing cabinets, desk drawers, and shared network drives. You may have even thought about public email folders, but what about personal email inboxes and email archives, backup tapes, and other business systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), asset management, cloud solutions, and intranets? Many organizations choose to keep all of their documents indefinitely in lieu of knowing how long they need to be legally retained, which means that the number of documents in your organization continues to grow, along with the associated storage and retrieval costs that come with increasingly larger document libraries. Another significant yet largely ignored risk is from discovery requests as a result of litigation. Discovery activities are time consuming and expensive processes that often require you to search all your document archives for documents that match a certain criteria or that are pertinent to a specific issue. The larger the document archives the larger the effort and cost!
In order to limit your organization’s exposure during such an activity and generally maintain healthy document archives look at implementing a document retention plan that establishes the retention period for each document that your organization handles and stores. Once you have a plan you can implement this plan using technologies such as SharePoint that allow you to implement structured document libraries built for managing your documents within the framework of your retention plan. This will not only allow your organization to respond more effectively in the event of a disclosure but will allow you to reduce storage costs and search times associated with finding documents by eliminating documents that have reached the end of their lifecycle.
Here at Light Industries we’re increasingly implementing document management and archiving solutions where retention and compliance are key solution drivers. We’ve found that SharePoint provides our customers with the tools they need to implement such systems by giving them the flexible control of how they manage their documents with the tools to successfully implement their retention plan. AIIM (Association for Image and Information Management) provides a good starting point here by listing 8 things that you should consider when developing an information retention policy for your own organization.