I was reminiscing the other day with a friend about how when we began our careers in a time that only mainframe computers with dumb terminals existed – I know I am dating myself again – there was a practice in place to mark copies or duplicates when they were made. It was a simple process really, you would take the paper document to a copier make your copies and then stamp the copy with either a copy or duplicate stamp typically using red ink. This policy was in place to eliminate any doubt or confusion as to which is the original. In fact the bank I worked for had a policy in place to stamp the cover page of the original document marking it as the original.
Somehow, the introduction of technology has eliminated this process in many businesses. Not that we cannot stamp documents or mark them as a copy or duplicate, we just do not practice this as part of our business operations anymore which in turn causes much confusion and in some cases costs lots of money for someone to sort through the hundreds of copies, identify a single copy and declare it the original or source document that would be used in audit or litigation. (Get the picture?)
In my view, the practice of marking documents as a copy or duplicate is still a sound practice and one that should be revisited. In ECM, I often talk about a single source of truth and an environment where there is only one original document, one copy that everyone works from but what if you need to make a copy? And you will eventually. It made perfect sense back then to mark the document and it still does today, the difference is how it is done. Technology allows digital stamps or watermarks that are embedded into the document displaying the fact this is a copy. It only takes a few seconds to do and could save a lot of time and money as a result. This is also where versioning could be beneficial in that you would always know which is the latest version of a document and be able to trace it back if need be.
This all points back to governance and best practices in relation to managing your information. If something was a best practice before the introduction of technology, what changed to the point where you no longer need to do this? If you were to audit your content today, even at a departmental level, how easy would it be to identify the original and provide proof that it is in fact the original and not a copy? Some systems provide audit trails to document a copy was made but if it was part of an email, even internally, could you/would you stand in front of the auditors or Judge and declare without a doubt that what you are presenting is in fact an original? If your answer is yes, congratulations, but if it is no, perhaps you need to think ahead like we did in those days of old and stamp it.
If as an organization, you are ready to move forward or are struggling with managing copies and duplication and are not sure where to begin or what to do next, seek professional assistance and/or training to get you started.
What say you? Do you have a story to tell? What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a topic of interest you would like discussed in this forum? Let me know.
Bob Larrivee, Director and Industry Advisor – AIIM
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Look for my session at NIRMA 2011 in Las Vegas this August and on Mobile Devices in the upcoming AIIM sbcon11 event this September.
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