Learn From The Top

Yesterday the Associated Press reported on some twenty two million e-mails that had been lost by the White House during the Bush administration and, part of the Obama administration. The article can be found at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34419592/ns/politics

Issues relating to e-mail archival reportedly go back several years with Microsoft being called in at some point in 2003 to help with the recovery. The issue became publicly known in 2006 as part of the investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The report suggests that the White House was aware of the need for an appropriate records keeping system but for whatever reason chose to do nothing.

It would be extremely easy to castigate the White House for their failings surrounding their records keeping but how many other organizations are in the same boat today? Let’s also consider the larger matter of “information management”.  This article is focusing on a case relating to e-mail archival.  The reality is that e-mail is just one form of communication and documentation that needs to be brought under control.  How quickly can most companies produce  faxes, scanned documents, word processing files, spreadsheets, presentations, computer generated reports or a litany of other document types should they be mandated to do so?

There are several lessons we can learn for a story like this. The first is that anyone can find themselves in a situation where not being able to produce information can be potentially fatal to their operation. This matter is not solely the preserve of public companies.  Whether it’s an IRS auditor or, a discovery request from the legal counsel of an ex-employee, customer, partner or vendor, saying “sorry, can’t find them” rarely provides the fast track to a positive outcome. 

The second lesson is, don’t wait! Ask anyone who has adopted a formal document/e-mail/records management strategy and they will tell you how much extra effort is involved in getting the historical “back file” data into the repository.  Your back file may consist of boxes in a warehouse, folders that live on the floors of offices throughout the building or “that place where Diane takes the old files”. If you have a substantial back file, decide on how you are going to incorporate those records into the solution or, define a process for working with them outside of the system. Avoid a situation where information access is a breeze – providing you are looking for records created after 2008.

Lastly, consider the ramifications of doing nothing.  Doing nothing is the largest competitor to any software sale and the silent enemy of the end-user.  What would the grand total come to for lost business, reputation damage, legal fees, court fines and, settlements? You may not be the White House but your house is the most important house.  Spend the time to understand what controls you have in place to effectively archive and protect the information that runs your business.

We have published a new streamline guide related to document repository issues.  You can download it here for free.

Written by Darren Boynton with Open Text’s Fax & Document Distribution Group.


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