Electronic Record Disposition – Still Controversial

By Susan Cisco posted 07-03-2012 15:50


Organizations have invested millions in technology to manage structured, semi-structured, and unstructured information; in retention schedules to establish retention periods for records; and in information lifecycles to manage retention for everything else. Implementing retention management in technology tools is still a significant challenge, and most organizations default to keeping everything that’s not deleted by the organization’s employees on an ad hoc basis.

Depending on whom you ask, there may be obstacles for disposing of electronic content. Research on the RM perspective discussed earlier suggests that most RM professionals expect to apply the collaborative pre-approval process they use for disposing of physical records in boxes stored off-site to electronic records. Other RM voices think this is unrealistic and impractical.

In a new white paper that expands beyond the RM viewpoint, the IT perspective is voiced by Mike Alsup: “The cost of getting the enterprise view of information needed to responsibly delete electronic information compared to the risk of not deleting it encourages IT professionals to do nothing.”

From the legal point of view voiced by John Isaza, obstacles to electronic record disposition are the exception and not the rule. A cursory survey of authorization and disposition requirements in Federal statutes and regulations and in all 50 states produced few requirements. In general, the private sector may rely on compliance with the records retention schedule as evidence of authorization to destroy. However, for Federal and state government agencies, as well as the insurance sector, proof of authorization and/or of destruction may be required.

Thanks to all who participated in the surveys, conference calls, and who commented to the blog posts. Where does the conversation need to go next?


#recordretention #ElectronicRecordsManagement #recorddisposition #electronic records management #retentionmanagement


07-23-2012 16:16

Thanks for the Sedona conference reference. It provides a practical perspective on why the volume of inactive electronic information is so high and a method for performing a risk analysis to get rid of ROT (redundant, obsolete and trivial) information. The paper provides solid support for what we’ve been saying for years:
“An organization may destroy inactive information, if, based on a good faith and reasonable investigation, the organization has a reasonable belief that an inactive information store does not contain potentially relevant or responsive information and if the organization does not violate a preservation agreement or order by doing so.”

07-10-2012 03:38

Perhaps the more widespread use of Sharepoint 2010 could facilitate a paradigm shift. Sites can easily be set up such that the default retention period is, say, 1 year. Document owners would then have to take a positive action (declaring a record) to extend the retention period. However, SP2010 out of the box does not have this enabled.... you have to manually configure it. And, as we all know, organizations are extremely conservative and would not accept such a scenario "just in case something was deleted by mistake". However, I do see organizations gradually moving in this direction e.g. default delete after 3 years. It is a slow change indeed!

07-05-2012 11:07

I agree, it's hard for an organization to figure out how to enforce polices and decide when it's appropriate to dispose of old data. The Sedona Conference has developed a commentary to help companies tackle this issue. Take a look and feel free to give us feedback on this public comment document. We're currently planning to release the final version this year.
Antigone Peyton