Stuffed File CabinetNothing puts your record keeping practices under a microscope like litigation. Every piece of paper that you created or kept on a project may be reviewed and analyzed. And, every decision to throw away a document  will be assessed to figure out why you didn’t keep it. The best way to ensure you have the necessary documents to support your claim is to have a written document retention policy.

Do you have a written document retention policy?

A great place to start in creating a document retention system is to have a written policy. Consider the documents that you know you need on each project and list them in the policy. Simply stating that the project manager must maintain the fully executed contract, all requests for change orders, all correspondence relating to change orders, and fully executed change orders, can go a long way to maintaining consistent documentation on each project.

Do you have a designated employee to maintain the file?

Have you taken the time to figure out who is the best employee to keep the file on each project? Does it change project to project? Taking the time to figure out who will be responsible for the maintaining the file on the project will avoid finger pointing during the project and afterwards when documents cannot be found.

How are you keeping documents?

Given the proliferation of e-mails, it may make sense to keep an electronic file of all documents. Decide how your company is going to maintain the file, paper or electronic.

Train Your Employees on the Policy.

You must train your employees on your document retention policy. Your policy will only be effective if your employees know how to use it and they all consistently use it. Your file management system will turn into a nightmare if you have a few employees keeping their own file on the project. Everyone has to know who is responsible for keeping the documents and which documents should be kept.

Take Away: The time to adopt and implement a document retention system is before you need to rely on it. Take a look at your company’s document retention practices and adopt a policy that will ensure you can support your claim.