Records and documents are vital to the flow of information within every organization. People create the information but can only remember a few things at a time. Documents preserve the institutional memory of an organization and keep its people on top of the latest developments. They are both the preservative and lubricant of knowledge and information.
All of which makes document management crucial to the smooth operation of a business or other organization. For small and medium-size businesses (SMBs), however, effective management of their documents can pose a challenge. It involves a variety of specialized skills, experience and tools. Large enterprises can afford to maintain in-house operations to handle document management tasks. But these capabilities can be a costly investment, too much for many SMBs.
The good news is that there are alternatives.
The Document Life Cycle from Birth to Death
Managing documents effectively is not just a matter of pigeonholing them in a file cabinet or its electronic equivalent. The conversion of paper documents to electronic form is, itself, a sophisticated, demanding process.
Documents must indeed be organized and classified. Metadata — information about what information the documents contain — must also be collected, classified and preserved.
Moreover, documents have a distinct life cycle. This life cycle goes from their creation to classification, preservation and operational storage. Some stored documents are consulted regularly. Others are kept for occasional need or because their preservation is mandated by law or regulatory compliance.
Finally, the useful or mandated life cycle of most documents comes to an end. They must then be securely disposed of, and their disposal itself properly documented. Keeping life-expired documents is not merely a waste of effort and storage space. It can be harmful.
In the event of litigation, old, expired documents may be unearthed by the discovery process. Apart from the discovery-related costs, an innocuous old email, in the hands of adverse counsel, can be a ripe source for misunderstanding or unfair insinuation.
In short, small and medium-size businesses, like large enterprises, need professional solutions for managing their documents. But these capabilities do not need to be built in-house, adding costs and distracting staff from their primary business tasks.
Professional specialists in document management can off-load the complex infrastructure tasks involved, saving SMBs time, money and storage space. SMBs can then rest assured that their records and other documents are classified and safely stored with convenient access provided. Rest assured that expired documents have been securely shredded or otherwise disposed of, with chain of custody verified.
Managing records should not be a burden. And it does not need to be.