Saturday, September 24, 2011

The under-appreciated role of PLM in implementing Document Creation Retention and Destruction (DCRD) policies

Have you heard about the famous (or infamous?) “Pitt’s Postulate”: “Whenever you think you’ve destroyed the last copy of any document, there’s always one more that exists, and it will surface at exactly the most inopportune time. The only exception, of course, is if you really need the document, at which point you’ll discover that you actually did destroy the very last copy.” – Quite true, isn’t it? Over the last few years businesses have come to appreciate that they need to better manage their documents and records to tackle a number of key issues including legislation's like SOX, risk of lawsuits, protection of intellectual property and identity theft. Most corporations have formalized Document Creation, Retention and Disposal (DCRD) policies, primarily outlining the length of time for which the organization will keep certain documents and records, either in hard copy or electronic form. These policies serve as guiding principles for employees, indicating which documents to discard and which to save while ensuring compliance with laws and hindering inadvertent or ingenuous destruction of records.

Numerous off-the-shelf solutions are available for such purposes (including SharePoint which impelled me to write this article) but if a company has already implemented a commercial PLM system then they in all probability do not need to go for another system to take care of DCRD policies. Record/Document classification, integrity, storage, access control, data retention, backup, data purging, comprehensive version and revision control, viewable file generation, auditing, search etc. are all effectively present in a enterprise PLM system.
What are the challenges before trying to get PLM in managing corporate records?

→ Assessment of different document type and their value needs to be determined first – Certain type of documents might not be suitable for storage in PLM like employee evaluations or expense reports etc when other systems are present to manage them.
→ Emails in particular – Time and again emails have been the center of attention in much litigation and unfortunately the retention/control/purge of emails is out of PLM’s scope.
→ Backups – Electronic data backup produce historical copies of documents/records which even though purged from the current system will be preserved in archives and are discoverable.
My conclusion: PLM is a viable solution in conjunction with other systems to aid implementation of DCRD policies. If a PLM solution is present then a new Records Management solution doesn’t need to be implemented.

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