Based on my observation the world consists of two types of people, purge people and non-purge people. We all know which category we fall into, but as a reminder: Purge people frequently empty out desk drawers, closets and the garage of useless documents, old clothes and stuff. Non-Purge people don’t. And yet, we all co-exist.
There is a business practice that you may be familiar with called Legal Hold. If a company is aware of or suspects litigation, that company should place all records and information related to the litigation on legal hold – don’t let the purge people get to it. Of course, nobody is happy when there is litigation, but how is it possible to lock down (or not over accumulate [non-purge people]) information in this day and age?
This is the balancing act that all companies have to deal with. Digital information is duplicated and stored in many places; email, the cloud, local computer drives, network drives and the company document management system. Paper documents, yes they still exist, are in off-site storage, desk drawers, filing cabinets and boxes in the basement.
A non-purge person puts the company at risk because nothing is ever destroyed, even if the information is past its legal requirement for retention. The purge person puts the company at risk because something may have been destroyed when it was on hold or before its legal retention requirement expired. Document management systems and records management systems to the rescue.
Records management systems are primarily geared towards paper records and document management systems are for digital documents. Both types of system can designate records as being on “Legal Hold”. A search of the systems is conducted for information related to the litigation, for instance a product or customer name, and then all of those records are flagged. A notice is also sent to all employees with the same information.
Because paper records are separate from the records management database, accidental destruction can more easily occur – keep a close eye on the purge people. Digital records are easier to lock down because a document management system can dis-able the “Delete” function for users for some or all records. This still doesn’t solve the issue of duplicate records that are outside the company system – keep a close eye on the non-purge people to make sure they aren’t saving files all over the cloud as a safety net.
It’s a complicated task to deal with a legal hold. Having a records management system and a document management system will help control the process but make sure you know your purge and non-purge people and keep an eye on them.