Managing document lifecycle events

Friday, February 13, 2015

FileHold provides four types of document lifecycle events to support common retention policies: convert the document to a record, archive the document, delete the document, or notify users about an arbitrary condition.

With the exception of the last one, the events impact your library in an automated fashion. While the impacts are all, at least temporarily, reversible it may not be desirable to take completely automated action. Using one of the new workflow features introduced in FileHold 14 it is now possible to put an indefinite hold on the event doing their job in a way that is completely tracked and easy to manage.

It has always been true that a document that is the subject of a workflow is prevented from having an automated event act upon it. While this could satisfy any need to hold a lifecycle event it could only be done one document at a time. Starting with FileHold 14 it is now possible to have many documents included in a single workflow.

There are two parts to this hold approach. Assuming the retention policy is already setup with a corresponding event a new user defined event should be added to the document schema. User defined events are also new with FileHold 14 and they allow an administrator or document owner to be notified when the event is activated.

This new user defined event should be setup to trigger shortly before the real lifecycle event. The exact timing is not too important, but it should normally be set to a time prior to the real event allowing enough time for the employees responsible for the document to review its impending disposition and take any needed action before the normal disposition time. The timing does not need to be perfect, because the next step will put an indefinite hold on the disposition.

The second part to this approach is to create a workflow with at least one activity that will be used to put a hold on any documents that are ready for disposition. The owner or administrator will get an email and or a document alert from the user defined event. This will be the trigger for them to initiate the workflow.

With FileHold 14 there are two classes of documents in a workflow: main and supporting. Main documents are the ones that will be labeled as reviewed or approved at the end of the workflow. For this process we will want to have all the documents ready for disposition to be added as supporting documents. Each workflow needs at least one main document, so we will create a traveler or notification document to be our main document.

In the simplest case the traveler document can simply be an offline document. It would be setup with the basic metadata needed by the organization to highlight the purpose for the disposition. It could also be a real document that contains instructions for the person that must review the lifecycle events. There are many ways to setup this traveler document according the needs of the organization. It would be a good idea to add a document control number to the traveler document to make it easy to track the actions of the reviewers at a later date.

With these pieces in place the operational process is fairly simple. Users that are named recipients of the user defined events will periodically receive notifications that some documents are ready to be converted, archived, or deleted. They will immediately initiate one or more workflows on these documents. The first step for initiating a workflow is to create the traveler document and fill out any needed metadata. Then they will initiate the workflow on the traveler making it the main document and add the actual documents to be held as supporting documents. The workflows can include ad hoc participants if there are a wide number of document reviewers that are not document owners.

The workflow participants will receive the normal workflow notifications letting them know there is review work to do, but the documents will be on hold until the workflow is completed. The workflow can be setup to automatically remind the reviewers to get the reviews finished. Administrators can track the review process in the normal workflow status screen and follow up with reviewers that are not completing their tasks.

Document lifecycle events typically run once per day. Once the workflow has been completed any documents that were being held by the workflow will automatically show up during the daily event run and they will be automatically converted, archived, or deleted.

More information on these topics can be found at the following links in our knowledgebase: