Don't Hit The Snooze Button On ESI Management

There’s almost nothing like the words ‘record retention policy’ to quickly put a group of grown adults asleep. If you’re lucky enough to be placed on the team to formulate said policy, you probably wonder who you ticked off and should remove from your holiday card list. Reminds me of the Dilbert where the boss starts a meeting and falls asleep while talking, slams his head on the desk only to wake up and ask what the meeting was about. They all said ‘the records retention policy.’

But hey, some of us actually like putting these policies and strategic plans together... they offer a lot of value when properly implemented.

I actually prefer to use the term ‘ESI Management Policy’ because that’s really where you get the most bang for your buck. While it’s important to know how long to keep certain vital records, almost nobody seems to care about the boxes piled up like the Pyramids in Egypt that you still pay monthly storage fees on. What they care about is the cost to store, identify, collect, review and produce electronically stored information (ESI).

In the old(er) days, the concern wasn’t about volume of ESI, but content. Everyone was concerned about the smoking gun e-mail – the stupid thing written that no one thought would ever see the light of day. While that’s still a major concern in this current era of extremely tight budgets, it’s not just the smoking gun that can cost the company, it’s also the mounting volume. There are real costs that must be identified and properly dealt with and managed via a policy that helps employees care about their own ESI management.

Don’t jump straight to technology for your solution, however. First, understand your company culture, where it is and where it needs to be regarding how employees create, send and store ESI. Second, create a policy that moves your company culture in the direction you want to go. Don’t try to make it all in one step; try the incremental approach. Grabbing for too much at one time only breeds unrest, and unrest breeds non-compliance. The only thing worse than not having an ESI management policy is to have one that no one follows.

Once you get the policy and the employees moving in the right direction, then it’s time to implement technology to help the company achieve its overall goals, which is cost savings through less volume, and, finally, organization of that remaining volume.

In a previous post, I stated that people and technology are both needed and must work together. Those words can be applied to most situations these days, but especially here. Training and buy-in on the part of your employees along with technology will help you achieve your goals.