The Cost of Doing Nothing

By Joe Shepley posted 03-10-2011 15:23


I was fortunate to be a part of a panel discussion in Chicago last week led by AIIM skipper John Mancini. I got the chance to sit side-by-side with some top notch panelists and share my ideas and experience with a great audience of ECM practitioners.

For those of you who missed the event, you can get a flavor for the discussion by checking out AIIM’s recap of it as well as from @ljseverson’s blow-by-blow Tweets.

In my last post I tried to continue the conversation from the panel and get provocative by asserting that social media has not, and will never, significantly change the e-discovery landscape.

Judging by the comments on my post (which as of 2:27 PM CST today total exactly zero), I failed in my goal of being provocative!

This week my goal is to not only get folks thinking, but to ruffle enough feathers and get people rankled enough to drive some of you all to weigh in. So here goes…

No one does records management

During the AIIM panel, I asked everyone who does systematic disposition of electronic content across the organization according to their retention schedule to raise their hands. Can you guess how many people did? (Hint: it’s the same number as responded to my last post.)

I wasn’t surprised, because I can count on one hand the number of organizations I’ve come across that do so. Which begs the question, if all we’re doing is keeping all our electronic content forever anyway, why do we spend so much time on records management?

Most organizations will tell you they do RM mostly to make sure they don’t get rid of anything they’re legally obligated to keep—but as they’re likely just keeping it all anyway, what’s their RM department doing, exactly? And how precisely is it adding any tangible value to the organization?

What if?

Starting from this line of questioning, I let my imagination go a bit on my flight home last night and came up with some what ifs that follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion.

  • What if we just scrapped our RM department, since regardless of their efforts, we tend to keep everything forever anyway?
  • What if we accepted the fact that keeping everything forever is how organizations work and tried to find ways to make that feasible instead of trying to turn every employee into a document hygiene expert?
  • What if we instituted a retention cut off point that met the 80/20 rule for our corporate records (say, ten years) and then ruthlessly and without exception purged according to that timeline? Would the savings on technology, storage, and employee time outweigh the compliance costs and risks?
  • What if we approached litigation exposure as a cost equation rather than a risk equation? Could we reduce what we spend managing litigation by managing/purging content according to simpler, less expensive, and unwavering rules (e.g., delete everything after ten years no matter what) while at the same time being more strategic about how we settle lawsuits to help reduce the number of times we even have to do discovery?
  • Is all the time and effort we spend trying to improve how we manage content really just a waste of time? Are we going at it the wrong way around by trying to change behavior that clearly seems to be central to how employees work (save everything, use the system of least resistance, keep multiple duplicate copies of everything) rather than applying our time and energy to minimizing the negative consequences of that behavior?

The final word

So the gauntlet is down—looking forward to a lively discussion!

#compliance #E20 #Records-Management #e-discovery #ElectronicRecordsManagement