She says that deleting information was tough for employees, because the corporate culture had been one of keeping everything forever. “It’s been a cultural shock for us,” says the executive.
The company began the transition to the new policy in 2007. It has systematically been going through all the issues, including looking at the different buckets of physical paperwork, reviewing the electronic [unstructured and structured] databases, establishing who has ownership over those records, and determining what the retention policy is for each type.
While attempting the cleanup process, she says, the IT and legal departments showed the most resistance to proactive disposition. “I’ve found traditionally that IT is the most challenging [unit] to implement a program like this. They…tend to be packrats and really want to keep it.” As for legal, they “tend to really want to issue very broad ‘hold’ statements as litigation comes up, so it’s very easy for them to say…make a copy of everything and don’t destroy anything,” she says.
But this executive has found that reasoning with these departments from a business standpoint has generated an overall positive response. “You equate it to ‘[the hold] is going to cost you X amount of dollars.’ When you start putting it into business terms about what that hold actually means…they will be a little more refined in their requests for what needs to be put on hold, which is a win for everybody,” she says.
She concludes that having everyone at the company on board, from the top level down, has been the key to her company’s records management program. “I don’t think this program would have any success at all without that support from our CEO and president of the company,” she says. “You just have to start picking off project by project, element by element and raising awareness, and before you realize it, you gain momentum and support for it.”
This company is on the right track in the eyes of people like Stainbrook. “We’re really hoping that the tide turns,” she says, “and attorneys will start seeing that the risk is in over-retaining information, over-preserving, and that there will be more and more light shed on the need to dispose of what’s eligible.”