Document Retention/Disposal and Document Management Systems

We talk a lot in our blog about the process of converting paper documents to digital files, and how a document management system controls the document lifecycle.  In a mature, established DMS, the system knows what to do at the end of a document’s lifecycle.  However, for organizations that are still transitioning over to an entirely digital, electronic environment, this issue still needs to be addressed.  Otherwise, paper copies take up space, and become subject to accidental dissemination or retrieval by unauthorized persons.  For organizations that aren’t yet 100% paperless, it’s extremely important to develop retention/disposal policies.

Deciding on the best strategy comes down to the information contained in each document.  Miscellaneous business notes are handled differently than documents listing personally identifiable information.  Strategies are unique to the organization since every industry has applicable laws regarding document retention and secure disposal.  For example, the healthcare industry must operate in compliance with HIPPA just like financial institutions adhere to laws under GLBA.  Ultimately, the contents and nature of the document dictates how it should be removed.

This can be particularly challenging for a company that’s in the midst of transitioning to a paperless office.  However, it also poses a great opportunity to really focus on the overall system.  Creating an electronic version of a document as its accessed is one thing, but right then and there is a good time to determine retention and disposal of that particular document.  Here are some tips for implementing a company-wide retention/disposal policy…

  • Every time a document is retrieved, there should be a process of checking if it’s been electronically converted, then determining retention/disposal procedures.
  • If a document must be retained, determine whether an electronic copy is sufficient or if the hard copy needs to be archived.
  • Once a hard copy is no longer needed it goes directly into a secure, locked bin.  Periodically the bin is removed by an authorized person for disposal.
  • Shred all documents before recycling.  Shredding reduces risk, recycling is good for the environment.  It’s just that simple.
  • Focus on creating a company culture that emphasizes security and prevention.  Be proactive, not reactive.
  • Regularly review privacy regulations and other applicable laws.  Make sure everyone is knowledgeable about policies and knows how to do their part.

A document destruction strategy is critical to an efficient and secure document management solution.  If you’re working towards a paperless office, it’s just as important to think about proper handling and disposal of information as it is to think about converting it.  For expert help on becoming a paperless office, or to learn about the latest technologies in document conversion, contact ILM today.

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