Records retention and records management are very important principles in dealing with corporate information. Records management being the overall guide book for employees on to how to store and classify information. It is also about proper management of that information including legal holds (don’t destroy if litigation is in process), access to information and records retention.
Records retention is basically an information destruction plan based on business or legal requirements. A business doesn’t necessarily want the burden of securing confidential, but outdated information for ever – ie. former patient records. Creating a records management policy and records retention schedule requires a lot of effort and yet the actual deletion of records is a very difficult step to take. Here are some thoughts on how to feel better about pulling the trigger.
First, you need to get comfortable that you can properly identify and segregate information. For instance, you need to have confidence that you can tell the difference between a current customer and a former customer. Once you have the list of former customers, you need to understand how many years it has been since the last activity with that customer. Now that you know and feel good about the subset of information that qualifies for destruction, the actual destruction is much easier.
Also, think through the reality of older information. It is quite possible that 10 years ago you may not have been tracking as much information about the customer and their activities. For instance, you may not have been tracking the country of origin of the source materials in their products that you purchase. The older the information is, the less relevance it has to how you run your business today. Provided the legal requirements to maintain those records has passed, fire up the shredder.
In regards to destroying paper documents that you have in digital form, the same prior comments apply, AND you have a digital copy. We definitely have witnessed a growing willingness to destroy the paper copy after a review of the scanned version. Some executed legal documents like contracts and certainly deeds and bank notes are retained in hard copy even-though the documents were scanned. That makes sense. But if you have a scanned version and you have taken steps to ensure that it is not tampered with, you really don’t need a paper copy of most documents. It is called the Best Evidence Rule and it applies in most if not all states and at the Federal level. Confirm your particular requirements.
So, make sure you have a retention policy that provides clear guidelines on when information types or classifications can be destroyed for business and legal purposes. Make sure you can clearly identify and segregate the information on that basis and remember that old information is really not that useful anyway, then pull the trigger.
Millennia Group has been providing document management solutions since 1996. www.mgdocs.com, firstname.lastname@example.org