Mike Fernandes, writing in the Sarbanes Oxley Compliance Journal, wrote an excellent article recently on the impact of inaccurate document metadata and the correlation this has with corporate governance and industry regulatory compliance.
When we talk about compliance, it is too easy to think about Sarbanes-Oxley, but there is a raft of other national and industry-specific regulatory requirements that both public and private sector organisations need to comply with. Failure to do so can sometimes lead to financial penalties, the revoking of operating licences, or in extreme cases, custodial sentances for corporate executives.
In content-centric business processes, like the Contract lifecycle process, it is too easy to think about contract documents and metadata in a seperate linear context. It is a fact of corporate life that certain internal stakeholder groups take more interest in the ‘document-process’ side of contract management, like Legal for instance; while other groups take a more active interest in contract related data, or metadata – like the Contract or Commercial group or Procurement.
In many cases, using contract metadata as the basis of user alerts or management reports is how contracts are managed. Without doubt, the process of authoring, reviewing and approving and archiving contract documents needs to be properly defined, managed and audited as part of an overall compliance strategy; but it is contract metadata that is so fundamental to the intelligent interrogation of a contract environment and that allows an organisation to keep track of potentially hundreds or thousands of contract milestones or obligations.
So what happens when the contract metadata is out of sync with the contract document or documents? One common issue with ECM solutions is that metadata is often created at the point of document creation. In a process where the document metadata relates to specific attributes, like contract milestones, commitments or obligations, and where the final version of the document may be significantly different from the first draft, keeping metadata in sync with the document attributes is of critical importance.
This is where Microsoft Office 2007 and SharePoint start to become invaluable business tools. SharePoint users are able to link particular parts of a Word 2007 document with an associated metadata field, so that if the document content is changed, the relevant metadata field is updated automatically. Magic. With version controlled metadata, a complete audit trail of both the document and metadata heritage can be produced to satisfy the regulator, while keeping track of key contract obligations at the same time.