Out With The Old, In With The New
In the digital arena, it’s “out with the old, in with the new” as technological advancements increasingly compel companies to replace enterprise applications with next-generation ones. However, the process of retiring older applications—from deciding which should be retained in an archive and which should be disposed of, to managing the archiving process and beyond—cannot be executed in anything but the most methodical manner, or problems will ensue.
This necessitates considering and formulating answers to four key questions:
- What is our policy for retiring enterprise applications?
Retired enterprise applications can be destroyed or archived, and common sense should dictate the policy that governs their disposal. In many instances, archiving is imperative.
Any application containing data that a company may need to access—in the case of litigation, regulatory request and so on—falls in the archiving category. For example, customer-facing websites can serve as proof of what information was shared with customers during the customer journey. Other examples include external social media applications, collaboration platforms used in developing products and intellectual property.
Internal enterprise applications containing data that could be needed in a labor or employee-related litigation should also be maintained in the organization’s archives instead of being destroyed. Wikis and similar applications utilized by the human resources department rank at the top of the list here.
Any policy that governs the retirement of enterprise applications should also include checkpoints for when the retirement will occur and for what duration archived enterprise applications should be maintained. Common sense and individual company requirements will play a part in setting these parameters and other factors may come into play. Case in point: Companies are typically mandated to wait seven years before discarding copies of retired enterprise applications that may give rise to regulatory requests for a response. Nonetheless, the actual time frame may vary based on the individual regulation in question.
- What might happen if we fail to archive the enterprise applications?
Failure to produce business records when asked to do so can put organizations at a grave legal disadvantage. Suppose a company is involved in litigation and cannot substantiate its claims or defense because the pertinent business records existed in an enterprise application that was destroyed following its retirement. At best, the organization would be in a significantly weaker position to emerge victorious in court. At worst, it could incur financial penalties and reputational damage or in extreme cases, like that of Enron and Arthur Andersen, implode entirely.
The more a company is unable to properly defend itself in legal or regulatory matters, because it no longer has access to the information needed to do so, the more it will develop a reputation for poor record-keeping. Such organizations will eventually become a greater focus of regulatory investigations and more subject to litigation than those that can produce records on demand. They will also be more likely to lose cases that they may have won if they had presented archived information in court.
The absence of certain records may also complicate internal matters. For example, suppose a company’s human resources department is attempting to determine how a particular issue was handled in the past. If the necessary information existed in a Wiki which was destroyed on retirement rather than archived, discord rather than efficient problem-solving could be the end result.
- Who will be accountable for the enterprise application retirement process?
Companies, especially large companies that operate in multiple locations and have many moving parts, must appoint a responsible party to oversee enterprise application retirement initiatives. This means ensuring that the policy and plan are enforced across the board and with no exception. It also means keeping the corporate compliance department abreast of all plans to retire enterprise applications and move to new ones, whether they are individual solutions or entire platforms.
- Who will handle archiving initiatives, and how should they occur?
For best results, it bodes well for organizations to engage a professional archiving firm. Such a firm should have the credentials and ability to create legally defensible, native archives of each enterprise application. In cases where it may not be necessary to archive the entire application, the firm should be able to provide guidance as to which data should be maintained. Determining this ahead of time and proceeding accordingly is critical: It is impossible to recreate data that was removed from the enterprise application before archiving occurred. Attempting to do so invalidates the archive—and compromises companies’ credibility.
Organizations will continue to embrace new applications, moving from solution to solution and from platform to platform as new digital capabilities and use cases emerge. Those that carefully map out and follow procedures for migrating to new digital applications stand the best chance of avoiding the consequences of poor decisions and the ability to make a smooth transition.