Regulatory Compliance and Enterprise Content Management Systems
Compliance with regulations is an increasingly costly part of business operations these days. There is also the need to reduce costs of e-Discovery in litigation. Enterprise Content Management can help with both these legal issues.
Because complying with regulations is often considered a “necessary evil” with no direct business benefits, organizations tend to consider compliance as a special project unrelated to business content management. Such an approach can increase costs of compliance.
On the other hand, if compliance is built into the systems that manage business-related content, much of the costs will be absorbed by the regular system costs, instead of creating additional special project costs.
Managing compliance might not be easy with special-purpose, segmented, departmental, and functional applications. An Enterprise Content Management system has a broader reach across all or most applications, and even unstructured content like e-mails and word-processed documents are easier to manage in terms of compliance.
For example, unstructured documents can now be sent to a secure repository instead of to a local desktop. Enterprise Content Management software can send e-mails that are (automatically) recognized as records to the records management system. Such steps can result in greater legal acceptability of the records.
Another compliance issue relates to retention periods. There are laws that stipulate how long certain records must be kept. These laws cover different functionalities such as HR, Accounting, etc. It’s easier to comply with these regulations with the enterprise-wide coverage of Enterprise Content Management systems.
The records management functionality provided with the ECM software can be invoked to specify how long each class of record (or an instance) should be kept. This can be done automatically, when a document is declared as a record, or later with minimal human intervention.
Litigation typically involves reviews of records by multiple law firms. If these records are maintained in different repositories, there’s a possibility of inconsistencies that can lead to heavy costs. Delays in producing the records can also have similar effects.
Enterprise Content Management systems store all content in a common repository with a uniform structure. This repository comes with improved findability of records and greater security for the contents. These are particularly relevant for unstructured content, which might otherwise be very difficult to discover. ECM thus improves both the speed of discovery and its consistency, with results significantly lowering litigation-related costs.
The records management functionality can also help in disposing records that have completed their retention periods, in an automatic fashion if so desired. This helps remove evidence that might prove damaging if kept. Clear policies and procedures can document the fact that destruction of records have taken place strictly according to policy, and not in order to spoil evidence.
One of the key advantages offered by Enterprise Content Management systems is that it makes compliance with regulations easier and less expensive. ECM has an overview of content generated all across the enterprise, maintained in a manner that facilitates the findability of particular records and documents, avoiding delays in producing records during litigation. Properly implemented ECM is accompanied with clear policies and procedures in different areas, with resultant greater legal acceptability of the records produced as evidence.