As guidelines go, document retention policies don’t have too much appeal. How interesting is the length of time a company’s employees should keep e-mail or a memo from the CEO? But when they’re abused, everyone pays attention. For example, Arthur Andersen made the news in January after David Duncan, the fired Andersen partner who led the accounting firm’s audit of Enron, testified before a congressional committee investigating Enron’s failure. According to news reports, his testimony confirmed suspicions that Andersen continued with document destruction at Enron after it knew that the Securities and Exchange Committee was investigating Enron. Reports and communications between Andersen employees also suggested that Andersen’s document retention policy supported such measures.

Even if you’re not a consultant contracting with a bankrupt multi-billion-dollar energy-trading firm, putting together a policy to help your clients manage the avalanche of electronic documents they receive and generate can only work in your favor. Our document retention policy can help your clients determine what employees can and should save and for how long. Consider the potential benefits:

  • More available network and desktop storage space
  • Better company network performance
  • Smaller chance that documents could later be used in litigation against the company
  • Less confusion over multiple iterations of documents
  • Ensured authenticity of electronic documents
  • Prevention of important documents being made useless by technological upgrades

Organizations obviously must hold on to documents that are vital to the health of the business, but the thousands of e-mails, Word files, PDFs, and Web page files stored on your client’s network make it more difficult to find needed information and documents.

By indicating in red the sections that we think you’ll be most likely to modify, we’ve set our policy up as both a full-grown document and a template for organizations that want to customize their approach to document management and retention.

After you’ve download the policy, let us know if it’s hit the mark with you or if we need to revise it to better suit your needs. Send us your suggestions in an e-mail or post your comments.