In today’s financially constrained times, there is a search to find ways to do more with less yet increase efficiency and effectiveness with records management. One area where savings and efficiencies have been promised is in records management.*** In particular, the promise of the digital age, where paper is reduced and all records can be tagged, searched, and held securely, offers that type of hope. One is tempted to say hype, but the reality is that for many organisations is digital. Yet, paper, and the paper-based record, remains the backbone of many organisations even if their central nervous system is electronic. Thus, they have a records management requirement to handle large volume of paper records.
Local authorities in the United Kingdom have to find creative and effective ways to manage their business records. Their task is to make the digital and the paper work together. For some authorities, they solve this by outsourcing their records management function. For others, they solve the issue by retaining an in-house records management function. Both have their merits and drawbacks. Yet, there is a relationship that is often overlooked. Some organisations are public records depositories. They have a legally prescribed archival function. What do they do about records management?
For these authorities, there is an inbuilt archival function. As such, they may face constraints if they decide to outsource the records management function. In local government, the smaller authorities are not public record depositories so they do not face this issue. The challenge raised the following hypothesis for me. I am now in search of evidence to test it. The hypothesis has some further implications for the choice between internal and external provider records management function.
My hypothesis is this: Are authorities that are public record depositories more likely to have in house records storage function than authorities that are not public record depositories?
On one level, there should be a strong positive correlation. However, there could be strong negative correlation because they are seen as two distinction functions within an organisation.
I would be interested to know how authorities that are public record depositories handle their records management. Do you have both in house? Alternatively, do you have your business records (day-to-day storage requirements) externally provided?
My hypothesis is based on a basic division between records management and archives. By this, I mean that what is in the depository is “archived”. The records are inactive business records. By contrast, the semi-permanent “active” business records, which may be needed on a daily basis, are ones that need to managed for access and control purposes.
If the two are strongly correlated, organisations that have the “archive” responsibility also have an in-house storage, what are the outcomes? Do they find that it is more cost effective and efficient to keep them together? Alternatively, is that effectiveness and efficiency less than what is found for those who keep the two separate? If they are negatively correlated, so that “archive” responsibility is in house and “active” documents are managed externally, are the more cost effective and efficient than those who join them together? Finally, for organisations that have no archival function, does the hypothesis stand up? Are you more or less likely to keep your records in house? If you do, is that more or less effective and efficient than if you made it external?
I would be interested to know the experience of others on this issue. Is it a good business case for in house or external records management? The decision may depend on whether they are strongly positively or negatively correlated *and* if the offer (or fail to offer) efficiencies and cost effectiveness.
Whatever the outcome, the authorities that are public record depositories have a particular challenge in integrating it, if at all, with their records management function.
***Here is a sample of companies offering services that will outsource records management.
Please note that I am not endorsing these services or products. I found these first with an online search.
- Records Management Zombies: Or, the Challenges of a Mindless RM Program (recordskeepers.wordpress.com)
- ZyLAB Offers Guidance about eDiscovery (arnoldit.com)