Like many of you reading this post, an increasing number of professionals are using social media tools on a regular basis, both on internal sites within the corporate firewall and externally (like this web site).
Let’s consider the internal corporate portal designed to help employees “find and learn” about each other and facilitate projects (which we will call “team sites”). First, we ask employees to provide background information on themselves, and – ideally – to regularly update the portal with relevant work experience. Then we begin forming groups, running projects, and adding documents. Effectively, a running commentary of the project is created. The project is completed, and, after a period of time, the team site becomes dormant. At this point, one of three things happens:
The site remains accessible indefinitely, meaning anyone can modify, add, or delete materials;
The entire site and all of its contents are “archived,” creating a non-modifiable version of everything at that point in time; or
Content from the site is selectively moved into a record-keeping system, and then the remaining materials are “decommissioned” (deleted).
Of course, there are several variants on these three scenarios, but the fundamental question is retention. Do you keep the stuff or not? Well, the answer is, “It depends.” And sadly, most organizations haven’t spent enough time wrestling with these questions. Among the factors “it depends” on are the following:
What is the purpose of the content that is being exchanged and shared? What is the project about?
Which of the organization’s users can contribute and have access? Do they have corporate decision-making authority? Are they licensed professionals?
Is any of the content “record-worthy,” or is it primarily reference material?
I was at a conference recently, and an assistant general counsel was asked about his organization’s discovery process as it relates to social media team sites hosted internally for client project teams. He answered, “We love them, because it makes discovery easy. Rather than sifting through thousands of emails, we effectively can get all of the critical material in one place.” And this view appears to be quite prevalent among corporate counsel.
Okay, so while these systems are not officially the “system of record,” they are effectively being used as such. So everyone take note and pass the word. Everything you post, blog, say, schedule, note, search, tag, etc., in your team site is being logged into the proprietary system you are using – indefinitely. Where this content will end up is for the most part undetermined, which means that it will stick around a long time and that it has the potential to be discoverable.
James Watson, Jr. PhD can be reached at 312-881-1620, firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet me @jameswatsonjr
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