E-mail Filing & Records Retention Policies
Many firms use e-mail as a massive filing cabinet. Retaining an unlimited amount of e-mail increases liability for the sake of convenience. While e-mail has always been discoverable in litigation, with the December 2006 discovery rule changes, e-mail in any form can be subpoenaed and must be presented in the form requested. E-mail can be stored in many different formats such as an *.MSG file, in the original mail server, as a local *.PST file on your system, an *.OST file at your home or as a temporary file at any ISP who delivered your message. All of these formats are discoverable. We suggest that you modify your records retention policy to store only the messages you intend to keep in your ECM system.
Making the List
Top ECM (Enterprise Content Management) Features To Consider:
- Portal integration
- E-mail integration
- Practice/CRM integration
Built-in Content Management
Only about one-third of the paperless systems shipping today have content management built-in. Generally, ECM is a feature of the high-end systems, but this feature is moving to lower-end systems. For tax and accounting firms, for example, Acct1st, CCH’s ProSystem fx Document, GoFileRoom, Conarc iChannel, and Interwoven WorkSite have content management. For industry, all of the ERP ECM products have content management including EMC Documentum, IBM Filenet, Hummingbird and OnBase. Smaller scale products such as Altec doc-link, Laserfiche and Fortis have ECM features, as well. Entry-level paperless systems rarely have ECM.
Workflow is another key feature of a good ECM system. Workflow allows work to be electronically transferred from one person to the next. In our traditional systems, we had control sheets, cover sheets or other forms that controlled the workflow. We often did work based on the physical stack of paper that let us know there was work to be done. The final end product was in hard copy, and we probably had multiple intermediate hard copy versions as well. Electronic workflow can be built into the product, added as a feature or purchased separately. Examples of workflow products for tax and accounting firms include XCM Solutions, TaxFlow and SurePrep. Most industry ECM products include workflow, where most tax and accounting firm products do not.
The Key to ECM Implementation
The key to proper ECM implementation is understanding, documenting and instructing users on the processes used. The lock or barrier is the attitude of managers of the firm who have not fully embraced using electronic softcopy. For more information about ECM, visit www.totallypaperless.com.