Perhaps it’s a cultural decision; perhaps it’s a financial one. Either way, in the world of governance, risk and compliance (GRC), implementing regular business records destruction curtails data explosion.

The Tasks for Records Destruction

Records and information management is about embracing the fundamentals. No matter the number of steps to destroy a piece of paper or an electronic record, the steps are always subsets of four, main documented tasks:

  1. Capture the history of the program
  2. Illustrate the design of the electronic records management system (ERMS)
  3. Diagram and carry-out each point in the destruction workflow
  4. Capture the numbers reported up to management (both projected and confirmed statistics)

The Importance of a Records Life cycle

Most companies are challenged to pay appropriate attention to this different kind of quadrant. Outside of the Records Management department, very few colleagues comprehend the importance of the life cycle of the record.

When implemented properly (i.e., through at least annual if not regular destructions), the life cycle per record of creation, distribution and use, storage and maintenance, retention, and disposition or archival preservation phases performed in sequential order, curtails data explosion.

What to do if Destruction is not a Priority

Agility is often the missing factor in this equation. If regular destructions are not a corporate priority, the best way to avoid huge destruction costs in both labor and, depending on the third-party storage contract, per box or terabyte, is to train colleagues how to select records at the top of the identification process:

  • Does the organization have a sound records management policy?
  • Does the organization have a transparent records retention schedule?
  • Does it reinforce the traditional statistic of only 6—10% of documents becoming records?
  • Are regular training sessions offered across corporate divisions?

Employee compliance plus smart records templates equals a corporate records awareness -- thereby increasing the likelihood of CXO (read: project sponsor) support for destruction.

Destruction Can be A Hard Sell

A CXO-level champion can be tough to find. While the life cycle of the record is intrinsic to Records Managers, destruction can be a tough sell to management. A simple, annual list of corporate priorities is often the deciding influence over routine destructions. Perhaps it’s a cultural decision; perhaps it’s a financial one. The organizational mindset drives whether the records retention schedule is implemented or not.

Document Control Programs are Not the Answer

Unfortunately, the reliance upon a document control program only reduces the sophistication of a records and information management program to a simpler document control program, or active records system: the first three phases of the life cycle only are implemented because no retention decisions are made.

If an organization has a document control program only, companies risk long-term discovery costs in exchange for dodging short-term, costly destructions. Be aware, we live in an era of the New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (note: 20 states have adopted the NFRCP). It’s not a question of if the organization will be sued, it’s when and how often.

Judges -- especially Federal -- are smarter about electronic records issues today than a decade ago. Be safe: the defensibility of a regularly scheduled destruction program impresses the right parties [See the recent Adams vs. Dell (D.Utah March 30, 2009) ] during discovery. General Counsel never needs Records until she needs records.

Regular Destructions are Critical

Destructions must be implemented regularly. If they are not, the proliferation of data within an entity inevitably follows. Information technology market intelligence firm IDC predicts the rules about what information to store and provide access to regulating authorities will grow more complex, making the total information that comes under the “compliance” umbrella swell to 35% of the Digital Universe .

Organizations should make that 35% of data manageable data -- regular hard copy and electronic destructions help. The disposition of records from an active records electronic database and offsite storage promotes a document control program to a records one and curtails data explosion.

Implementing the life cycle of the record within the destruction process quadrant creates a sound records and information management program.