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Issue Date: March 2008

Understand, plan and do

1 March 2008

Document management is not a simple exercise for the uninitiated. CBR posed five questions to Guy Kimble, IT and operations director of Metrofile and Grant Hodgkinson, MD of Mint.
What does the discipline of document and records management really involve? What needs to be stored and what not?
Guy Kimble: Document management is an organisational discipline involving the understanding and management of business records. It requires companies to develop a comprehensive document management policy, implement it and ensure that it is adhered to by everyone. The policy will govern what records are to be kept and for how long, retrieval processes and how they will be stored.
Guy Kimble
Guy Kimble
Grant Hodgkinson: The discipline involves the processes, technologies and practices to enable an organisation to store a complete record of its content and legally-relevant activities in a structure and manner that can be searched and the content can be retrieved on demand. What needs to be stored and what not depends on the company's aversion to risk, the nature of the industry, and the nature of the legal event that needs to be tracked.
Grant Hodgkinson
Grant Hodgkinson
How does document and records management differ between small and large companies?
Guy Kimble: Both have to deal with the same types of records, but larger concerns have a far greater volume to deal with. It is in larger companies that we therefore find a greater tendency towards electronic and automated document management solutions as well as outsourcing.
Grant Hodgkinson: Small companies and large companies obviously differ in terms of the scale of storage that is required, but the processes in large companies tend to be more automated to cope with the larger volumes.
What about outsourcing the task? Offsite is supposedly safer.
Guy Kimble: The first decision companies need to take when looking at offsite document storage is ease of access. If staff are going to require frequent, fast access to documents it needs to be close at hand; but once access is required less often and people can wait for a while before getting a document, then offsite storage becomes effective. Of course, companies must be sure their outsourcing partner is able to ensure reliable storage, security and delivery.
Grant Hodgkinson: The declaration of a record is generally linked to a specific business process. Most organisations cannot outsource the execution of these business processes. However, the end results, the output and the management thereof can sometimes happen off-site on the assumption that people inside the organisation have the ability to search for and retrieve records as needed.
Why not simply digitise all paper records? It makes management and storage sense.
Guy Kimble: Now that digital records are recognised legally there are many reasons to go the digital route. Sensitive documents or originals that have to be stored for long periods can be secured offsite while business deals with the digital copies, for example. However, it is critical to note that the digitisation process is not comprised simply of scanning the documents and saving them.
To ensure digital records are recognised in court, for example, the digitisation process needs to be carefully designed to ensure that the company can prove its electronic copies are pure copies of the original and have not and can not be altered for fraudulent purposes.
Grant Hodgkinson: The digitisation of physical documents helps many organisations to counter the risks embodied in storing one physical copy of a document. For one, having a digital document means that it can be viewed across multiple regions in the organisation, without having to touch the physical document. The key to making the documents easier to recover, however, is ensuring that all document images are stored in such a manner that they can be tagged, catalogued and retrieved easier.
What tools are available that actually help in the document and records management process?
Guy Kimble: One of the most important tools is professional consulting to assist companies in formulating their document management policies in terms of what records the company has, what needs to be stored and for how long, the format of storage (microfilm is still very much in use) and defining a responsibility matrix.
Of course there are also specialised hardware and software tools, such as SharePoint, which is playing an increasing role in managing Microsoft documents. Locally developed Metrofiler also assists companies in managing electronic and physical documents.
Grant Hodgkinson: A variety of tools are available, that help manage business processes, the storage and the ability to search for content. The strongest requirement, however, is the need to define business processes carefully and map them carefully to user activities.

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