This year’s Oscar-winning song serves as some terrific advice: Oil and gas companies may want (and need) to preserve and mine some of their valuable legacy records and destroy what they no longer need.
In fact, many of those legacy records scattered around your organization are important. They might hold the key to new drilling opportunities or provide proof of regulatory compliance for pipeline integrity. But chances are you’re keeping a lot of records you don’t need—particularly paper.
Overflowing records rooms and yards of dusty seismic tapes should be proof enough that you need to get your legacy records organized and under control. An overwhelming majority of respondents—78 percent—in the recent Cohasset 2013-2014 Information Governance Benchmarking Survey for the Oil and Gas Industry agree that they hang on to information because of the way legal holds are written or applied. Many companies are simply afraid to “let it go,” fearing retribution from regulators or the courts during discovery. But any solid plan to organize and retain valuable legacy records also includes a process for cleaning house.
There’s no doubt that you need an effective legal hold process to comply with discovery requirements. But once a legal matter has been resolved, keeping related information is wasteful—and dangerous. Those extraneous records can obscure valuable information and leave your business vulnerable to data breach. They can also mean increased legal liability in the form of unintended discovery related to another legal matter. And they can even result in serious pipeline incidents if you’re not able to easily access and review documentation that speaks to pipeline integrity.
Even if you’ve managed to organize and properly store records, they probably take up precious space that could be better used for high-value activities. Or, if you’ve stashed them offsite, they’re racking up storage costs. It’s time to jettison records that have outlived their usefulness and do it in a thoughtful, methodical and automated way.
Automated deletion methods ensure the secure destruction of records that have been identified for deletion—and do it on a schedule. Yet only 40 percent of oil and gas respondents in the Cohasset report said they use partially or fully automated processes to identify paper records for destruction. Fewer than 78 percent said their organization would benefit from fewer event-based retention periods—retention based on an event such as a contract expiring or a legal case being settled.
To automate or partially automate methods to delete information whose retention period has expired, take these three bold steps:
1. Tackle event-based retention in a way that’s consistent with your organization’s risk profile and ability to marshal and commit resources. That means moving your corporate culture away from a “keep everything” mentality.
2. Create a cross-functional RIM steering committee to oversee effective, consistent legal hold retention and end-of-life termination processes.
3. Team with a trusted storage vendor with the technology and expertise to help you accomplish your retention and destruction goals more quickly and efficiently than you could do it yourself.
Isn’t it time to listen to the sage (albeit musical) advice from Disney’s Snow Queen? Making automated deletion methods a priority for your records won’t win your company any Oscars, but there’s much to be gained when you finally address your growing pile of records and learn to let them go. And if that sounds easier said than done, contact our information management experts for advice.