The case for single tasking

We all multitask. Whether it’s answering the phone while putting on a child’s shoes, or reading email while sitting through a Powerpoint presentation, or cleaning up your desk while listening to a conference call, we all multitask. We live in an era when we don’t have time to do things “one thing at a time.”

The same holds true in the corporate world. People wear more than one hat. Sometimes more than two hats. Having just one job at your job seems a luxury sometimes. At one company, I was head of compliance for three operating businesses and also head of anti-corruption compliance.

Multitasking in this way isn’t unique; we see that a lot with anti-corruption compliance nowadays. Your Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance officer is also your vendor management person. Or an Assistant General Counsel for Asia Pacific. “…I also handle anti-corruption compliance,” is a frequently-heard job description.

The same holds true for records management. Few companies, outside of regulated industries and serial litigants, will have a dedicated Records Management person. Most often, that role will devolve on some unlucky compliance officer as an also-responsible-for. It seems that as the world gets smaller and more complicated, this kind of multitasking will only become more prevalent.

But this is a trend that should be avoided. In the area of anti-corruption compliance, for example, the area has just become too hot, too dangerous. With its multi-hundred-million dollar fines and increasing jail sentences, the risk demands a dedicated resource to mitigate it.

This is where records management is heading, and it’s time to get ahead of the curve. The legal requirement to preserve documents-that is, to take affirmative steps to ensure the security of documents, and to ensure that no documents get deleted or altered-begins, generally, when litigation is reasonably predictable.

It’s not just when a lawsuit gets filed, it’s when you’re reasonably certain a lawsuit is coming. This difference injects a significant amount of risk into your records management process, and requires informed judgment about when to institute litigation holds, and how broad those holds need to be.

This problem will only get larger: megabyte hard drives and servers turned into gigabyte hard drives and servers, and now terabyte. With this much space, the average worker never considers deleting documents. There is no incremental cost to store them, so why not?

Given these trends, it’s more important than ever for enterprises to have a dedicated Records Management Compliance Officer, and to give that person the right technology. Sophisticated technology exists that allows for better early case assessment, legal hold maintenance, and can be used to continually monitor higher risk sources of data. Put the right person in place with the right technology, and you’ll be 10 steps ahead of the other side.

Howard Sklar, Senior Corporate Counsel at Recommind, is responsible for the growth and development of Recommind’s software solutions and regularly advises on the InfoRiskAwareness Project. Howard brings to Recommind more than 17 years of legal expertise, with 12 years as a prosecutor and regulator. Before joining Recommind Howard took on key roles in the legal departments of Hewlett-Packard and American Express. Prior to moving in-house, Howard served 12 years as a prosecutor and regulator, first as an Assistant District Attorney in New York, where he developed a speciality in computer crime investigation, and then as a senior enforcement attorney in the Branch of Internet Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission.