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Potential opportunities for Outsource Providers e.g. Records Centers – Offsite Document Storage Providers - November 2005

Can Corporate and Government organisations scan and destroy their physical documents and files in todays technological and legislative environment?

With one or two Caveats they are doing exactly that and today.

In to-days business (I mean business in its broadest definition) environment where doing more with less is the day to day battle cry does an organisation need to keep its physical documents or files once they have been scanned into a reliable and trustworthy Electronic Record and Document Management System (ERDMS)?

The answer is MAYBE!

One may need to ask; is the scanned document critical to the business process, or does it have legal or mandated requirement to be kept in the original paper format, and or has it the potential to be worthy of preservation over time as a unique physical object for historical or other purposes?

The additional caveats are:

1. Has the document been captured in a scanning/imaging process that meets international or national quality standards as defined in e.g. ANSI-AIIM MS44-1988 - Recommended Practice for Quality Control of Image Scanners or possibly ISO/TR 15801:2004 - Electronic imaging -- Information stored electronically -- Recommendations for trustworthiness and reliability.

2. That the resultant images are entered into an appropriate reliable and trustworthy ERDMS and indexed (either automatically via the application of barcode or RFID tag scanning or manually by operator intervention) at the point of capture and linked to the applicable organisations approved Retention and Disposal - R&D or Disposition Schedule in that process and in this same timeframe as the meta-data capture.

3. That these images and other electronic data as identified by the ERDMS as having a medium to long term (I would recommend a minimum of 5 to 7 years or as required by local regulations as the medium to long term start point for movement to an archival media e.g. microfilm with an Life Expectancy - LE of up to 500 years) retention period to be converted to 16 or 35 mm microfilm in a roll film format with an index of the meta-data also written to the microfilm.

If the above criterion has been implemented and met, do we then proceed with the destruction of the paper documents in question?

I would suggest that the above detailed situation occurs today in full, or in part across numerous corporate and government organisations internationally today with or without approval of the relevant archival authority.

Were does this leave the corporations and persons operating Outsource Providers e.g. Records Centres – Offsite Document Storage Providers?

This scenario of a less paper environment offers different but potentially new and hopefully viable business opportunities for Outsource Providers e.g. Records Centres – Offsite Document Storage Providers.

Let’s paint a potential situation for consideration.

An organisation makes a decision to go as digital as possible with its documented business process and operational environment. First it needs to ask itself a number of questions which may include;

1. Is it feasible to implement?

2. If it is feasible, is there driving operational and financial improvement reasons for doing so?

3. Does it want to do the job internally?

4. Does it want to open all incoming mail and then transfer all paper documents to a digital format internally?

5. Is opening and scanning incoming mail its core business?

6. Does it make sense to outsource this activity to an external party?

7. Who is best suited to handling this type of operation?

The answer, possibly Outsource Providers e.g. Records Centers – Offsite Document Storage Providers!

Can an Outsource Providers e.g. Records Centers – Offsite Document Storage Providers pick up the mail at midnight or early morning from an organisations mail handling facility, open and sort that mail and then scan all of it into an imaging system? Can they then suitably index each document (either automatically via barcode or RFID tag scanning or manually by operator intervention) have all of the images sent electronically (in a secure encrypted package) to your clients ERDMS system ready for to be worked upon at the clients relevant PC terminals at the start of business for the day whatever time that ma be?

Technically and operationally the answer is a resounding, YES!

Who else is better suited to provide this service than those parties currently intimately involved and conversant with the management of paper documentation, Records Centers – Offsite Document Storage Providers!

The additional service of converting all identified medium with long term retention requirements including meta-data, information and records to 16/35 mm roll microfilm and to store that microfilm at 10 Degrees Centigrade with a 30-40% humidity environment suitable for microfilms longevity e.g. a Life Expectancy - LE of up to 500 years is an additional service offering worthy of consideration.

What wonderful opportunities for outsource providers to consider!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 31 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

The author, Laurie Varendorff of the Varendorff Records Management Consultancy - TVC - Helping clients manage their e-World gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

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