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Records Management and Documents Destruction

Executive Summary

Information is one of the most vital assets in any one organization. Policies and decisions in organizations are made based on the information available. In addition, security of the organization’s information is crucial as its exposure to unauthorized persons or its loss can be a deathly risk to the organization. As such records management in any organization is essential. Organizations have thus stepped in to provide records management and document destruction services at a fee to firms. Securit is no exception. A company that was established 18 years ago and which has seen grown to 145 branches offers unmatched records management protection and secure destruction of unwanted records to over 150, 000 customers in 15 countries. Although a market leader in the field, it has not exploited its potential.

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This study therefore aimed at identifying the opportunities for future improvement in record management and documents destruction at Securit. The study also reviewed literature sources to get authors’ views on the topic as well as market analyses for Securit to identify areas of strength, weaknesses opportunities and threats. The study was carried out on 50 company’s employees from both lower level and management selected from the head office and eight other branches. It was found out that although the company had made some steps towards incorporating modern technology and increasing efficiency, more still needed to be done so as to maintain its favorable position and oust competition.

Introduction

Information forms one of the most important resources in any organization. In fact, it is the engine behind the operations of any particular business and the sole basis on which decisions in the organization are made. As a result, management of information is inevitable if at all the organization is to effectively and efficiently realize its objective. In any particular organization, information is managed in form of record due to the fact that some are not utilized immediately. Also, the organization gets new information on daily basis and may be forgotten if it is not recorded. Records management is therefore one of the most crucial components of information management organizations and government institutions.

According to Fredman (2003:55), records management is a combination of all activities that are involved in creation and handling of records; from the capturing of information, processing, dissemination up to the final disposition after which the record are no longer needed by the organization. In records management, accessibility of the information in the records, as well as the security from loss and access from unauthorized persons are the main objectives. Securit is a company that was founded in Toronto in 1990 and that offers records management and mobile record shredding (destruction) services. Since then, it has grown in leaps and bounds. It currently has more than 140 branches, 2600 employees and a customer base of more than 150,000 distributed in 165 countries. This paper therefore looks into the future opportunities that are presented to Securit for improving records management and document destruction services.

The Objectives of the Study

The main objective of the study is:

  • To find out which opportunities are presented to Securit for improving records management and documents destruction services.

Specific Objectives

  • To find out the newest opportunities for improving records management and documents destruction at Securit
  • To find out the effect of changing technological environment on the Securit business environment

The Scope of the Study

This study was carried out exclusively within the boundaries of the Securit Company, both in the head office and at branches level. Eight out of 141 branches were included in the research. In order to form a strong basis of the research, a thorough literature review that depicts the ideas and contribution of authors on the importance of excellent record management, recent improvement in record management and destruction, as well as opportunities in the records management and documents destruction business was conducted. A review of current business environment in the company, information systems, ERP, and market intelligence was also carried out to identify area of improvement. A SWOT analysis of the company was also conducted to identify both the threat as well as opportunity presented to Securit by the industry.

Assumptions

  • Both the head office and the branch’s operations are unified (subscribes to the same policies).
  • The answers obtained from the employees are true to the best of the respondents’ knowledge.

Literature Review

According to Fredman (2003:51) records management is the overall organization’s need to obtain, accumulate, administer and be able to retain information as records and the destruction of any such record (should need to do so arise). According to the latter, records here refer to any form of the organizational information storage may it be in written or rather paper form, physical or in electronic form. In order to make records management more effective and efficient in terms of absolute accuracy, increased volumes of storage, ease of retrieval as well as the abject safety of such records, the technological innovators have been continuously devising technologically up-to-date and sophisticated mean of records management. Example of the most recent development as far as records management is concerned is the innovation of the record management software, which helps organizations, government’s agencies as well as individuals perform a wide range of records management functions ranging from files requesting and enquiries to preservation and outlook to access and security (Fredman 2003:51)

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Although people often tend to mistake Records Management for Enterprise Content Management, the fact is that the two are virtually different and provide solutions to two totally distinct problems. While enterprise content management is concerned with enhancing electronic collaboration and data transfers (sharing) across departments and groups in an organization, records management plays a role of ensuring that the absolute record integrity and safety is withheld throughout the information life cycle (Gillian, 2007: 12). In particular, the objective of efficient records management in an organization, and which concurs with individuals’ effective management goals, is to ensure that records reliability is maintained through tracking of the records store chains, manages the information stores, and facilitate the safest destruction of the unwanted records or whose use has already been exhausted.

According to Eddy (2005: 223) record management is also more compatible with the records management software than in enterprise content management, since in a records management software solution, records in whatever form, may it be in written form, electronic or in physical form can be managed in a single collaborative system. Also, there are other two terms that people tend to use interchangeably in the context of records management but which are absolutely distinct. These are the documents management and the electronic records management. While electronic records management is a constituent of functionality of the records management software (ERM) dealing with both physical and paper file follow up and retrieval, documents management application which is also referred to as digital-only can only deal with the electronic data tracking and management.

Due to the ever-growing competition in the records management industry and in which Securit is a major player, increased consumers awareness, increasing records sensitivity and the ever growing records insecurity as well as increased volumes of data that needs to be managed, organizations are rapidly turning to records management software and content management approaches with ultimate objective of increasing the overall effectiveness in records management. This has since become a strategy in terms of meeting clients records management needs (Gillian, 2007: 12). This way, they can oust competition. This fact is greatly evidenced by the analysts’ estimates.

According to the report published in January 2007 (Marcus, Olivia & Alex, 2000:63), the world’s records management software sales in 2006 were estimated to be a robust $ 360 million, recording an elegant 30 percent increase from the previous year (2005). In addition, Smeadsoft (a market leader in development and marketing of unified records management software solutions and filling systems that have succeeded in organizing and simplifying records management life cycle across all types of record) has reported a sharp increase in sales revenues for its products over the last five years. The largest increase was however last year (2008) with a sales revenues increase of 67%. Hailing the good performance by the company during the announcement of this increase, Smeadsoft’s vice president expressed optimism that the market of the records management software and filling system would continue to grow and thus hope for even better returns for the company in years to come. He also reiterated the commitment of the company in continuing to innovate and invent through its research and development hence come up with even better products to efficiently meet the ever growing records management needs.

According to Gillian (2007:22) records management is a combination of all activities that are involved in the treatment of information, either by organization or individuals, either in physical, paper or in electronic form across the range. The activities that forms records management includes but are not limited to information creation and collection, processing, distribution, information storage and retrieval as well as destruction for disposal where need arises. According to the latter, the effectiveness and efficiency of records management can only be attained if records managers were to embark on carrying out the latest research and adoption of the best records management methods; with a great emphasis on the adoption of modern technological developments in this field. Such advancement such as the record management software and the electronically- aided files management systems would have been recommended to achieve improvement in the records management practice.

As noted by Fredman (2003: 56), efficient and effective management or information (or rather records management) can only be achieved in individuals and the records managers were able to recognize and adopt the best records management practices, track and adopt the major developments in record management practices, align the role and practice of the records management with the business goals, seek to understand both the concept and application of the newest, effective and efficient records management techniques, do the most accurate comparative analyses with the other player in the record management and destruction so as to continue getting more ideas and keep a close track on the competitors new technologies and operations (gathering market intelligence).

According to Marcus, Olivia & Alex (2000:61), for the records management service provider to achieve optimal success in records management efficiency, it is inevitable that they keep in touch with the latest theoretical and practical developments as well as research applications while closely assessing both the immediate and long term implications of these developments. Efficient records management is vital to both the profit making organization as well as government efforts (Gillian, 2007: 12). According to the latter, records management is the engine behind information, the latter of which propels virtually all the operations of an institution and the government departments as well. She argues that information is the sole basis upon which policies and decisions governing the operations of both the profit making organizations and the government agencies are made.

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Gillian (2007: 17) also stresses the importance of careful handling of organizational records, saying that in this error of robust competition in the business environment, an organization cannot afford to expose its vital information to competitors or unauthorized persons. As a result, the latter points out that safe storage and destruction of records or rather safe disposal of the same is very vital as competitors are sometimes tempted to peruse into the dustbin of their counterparts in dire search of vital information which they can turn into their own advantage.

According to Marcus, Olivia & Alex (2000:50), records destruction is the actual disposition of records that are no longer useful or rather needed by the organization or the institution in question. The latter give five major principles of records destruction namely, authorized appropriate secure or confidential timely and documented. There are two major levels of authorization that are vital in records destruction. These include the formal disposal authorization by the ARMS and which is mainly in the form of a records retention schedule and the internal authorization i.e. signing off via a business unit’s internal approval process. When the destruction authorization is by ARMS, the records retention schedule offers the destruction authorization. These provide the records managers an authority to destroy an approved document in the current retention schedule at the end of the most suitable retention period in case it is no longer required by the organization mainly the united nations office (Marcus, Olivia & Alex, 2000:51)

Authorization by a business unit arises when an organization entrusts the destruction of its records to another organization that offers such services thus giving the latter the authority to destroy the records upon the expiry of the minimum period of retention. However, the agent must confirm from the principle that the records therein are no longer in any way required by the latter before destruction. This is normally ensured via enactment of appropriate internal authorization or approval processes such as making a list of all the unwanted records due for destruction to the staff members or the agent entrusted with the destruction process. Is it important for the business unit to take care, however, not to destroy any records that are needed for immediate or pending investigatory action or records that are in line for use as evidence either in the internal or external investigation. Moreover, records that are subject to public access request must not be destroyed. More importantly an appropriate organizational officer must be the one to give the final authorization for the records destruction. In order to authenticate this process the individual or rather officer should be openly chosen and solely be bestowed with the responsibility to undertake the entire process (Marcus, Olivia & Alex, 2000:52)

Effective destruction of record is paramount especially so as to guarantee maximum safety of the records. As a result, the most appropriate method must be applied to ensure that the records are not only permanently destroyed but also that the process is environmentally friendly. Permanent destruction of records will minimize the risk of the information being recovered again. Otherwise, there may arise a case of organizational sensitive information falling in the hands of unauthorized persons posing an immediate risk to the source (organization). For instance, cases have been documented of records having been found in dumping areas or records being left in the drive of computers after such computer had been disposed off to a buyer (Gillian, 2007: 22). Such an occurrence may have a very serious implication to the organization especially if the founder of the records is a competitor. In addition, it has a very bad image to the organization and the department involved.

Social responsibility has also been stressed when it comes to records destruction. The process of destruction must be environmentally friendly with recycling where possible. More importantly, the security, while handling the record destruction process must be at the highest level. In fact, the disposition of information in record should be carried out with the same degree of security that had earlier on been maintained throughout the records life cycle (Eddy 2005: 216). Virtually, this process should take place under the watchful eye of the officer or under the supervision of an authorized agent in circumstances where the destruction is entrusted to a contractor. More so extra care must be taken during destruction particularly when the records in question are of a sensitive nature (Gillian 2007:17, Marcus, Olivia & Alex 2000: 52).

Gillian (2007: 21) concurred with Marcus et al (2000:52) that records should not be destroyed while they are still useful to the organization. Also, it is unnecessary to keep records that are no longer useful to the organization. Consequently, it is important to be accurate in determining the most appropriate time for the destruction of records to avoid either early or late destruction. Finally, there is great need for the evidence that the records have been destroyed. Ideally therefore, the destruction must be documented and authenticated (signed) by both the contractor and the officer responsible for the records destruction. This is because at time such evidence of destruction may be required in an investigation or as a response to a request to access them.

The method employed in the records destruction is also very important and the choice of the mode will determine the success of the destruction process. Such methods include but not limited to shredding, pulping and burning in case the records are in paper form, magnet or optical mode and reformatting of hard drives in computers in case of electronic record. Remember that erasing information from the computer drive is not a safe mode of destruction as it can be recovered, reformatting is the key thing in this case Also, non-electronic or non-paper media can be destroyed by shredding, sitting them down into pieces, physical crushing or recycling them using appropriate chemicals (Marcus, Olivia & Alex, 2000:51).

Study Methodology

The Sample

A study population of 50 employees currently working at Securit was chosen, both from head office and the various branches using the stratified sampling method. The strata in the sampling process were identified based on the branch type as well as the positions of the employees in the organization, out of the 50 employees, 10 i.e. 5 from management and the rest consisting of junior workers were obtained from the head office. In addition, each of the eight branches contributed 5 employees each to the sample two of whom were managers and three junior employees. A number of fifty was chosen because of limited time for the study and that it was possible to adequately cover the entire respondent within the limited time. Also, only eight branches were selected due to their closeness with the head office since it was not possible to cover all the 141 branches in 15 countries. Stratified sampling on the other hand ensured cross organizational representation thus increasing the apprehensiveness of the data so obtained. From the fifty, data was collected using organized interview schedules and analyzed using simple percentages.

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Internal Analysis (SWOT)

Since its establishment eighteen years ago, Securit has grown from a single branch to a massive enterprise with more than 140 branches in 15 countries and a customer base of more than 150, 0000. Among the other achievements of the company since its establishment is its appointment as the official information security company for the Canadian bar association. In fact, Securit has been able to capture the largest share of the market in the industry because it is known to provide the highest level of information security via its well managed record management systems and the highly effective shred-it document destruction service.

Virtually, a source of the company’s strength is that they go well beyond the tradition archival storage thus offering a customized off-site information management solutions, ranging from active files management to long- term boxes storage. They also offer media vault programs that are graced with highly controlled environments. In addition, its shred-it services provides the most secure method of records destruction providing mobile shredding services using proprietary technology that utilizes mobile shredding trucks. This ensures that the company offers the most efficient destruction of the customers’ confidential records that are no longer needed. Formation of partnerships like the one that the company has established with the Canadian bar association as well as enhanced relationship marketing had secured the company a rather permanent customer base safe and sound from invasion by competitors. However, the pace of the company’s expansion has not so far matched the market demands, as the records management needs and destruction demand is increasing each day that come. As a result, the company has not fully exploited its potential since its coverage is still limited. In addition, the company lags behind in terms of incorporating up-to-date technology in record management and documents destruction.

Purchasing of more sophisticated equipment, both for records storage and destruction will increase the company’s capacity as well as the speed, accuracy and enhance record security, which strengthens further its position in the market. Competition in the records management and documents destruction industry becomes stiffer every other day, a major source of threat to the company. As a result its strengths have to a greater extent been used to offset this threat via offering of unmatched services in record management data protection and documents destruction. At Securit, documents are stored in offsite locations that are ultimately secure, costs effective and in a manner that meets the clients’ compliance needs. In addition, the company stores clients’ backup tapes and important data in safes protected from theft interference, humidity and free from any disaster whatsoever.

Research Findings (Analysis)

In the research 42% of the respondents i.e. 21 employees, were managers ranging from senior management executives to the supervisors. Well over half of the respondents (65%) had worked with the company for more than five years. However, 3 junior workers and one supervisor working outside the head office were in the company for the first year while the rest had worked at Securit for between 2 and five years. Among the newest improvement at Securit that was noticed by the head office was the acquiring of the modern proprietary technologically assisted mobile shredding trucks that had really improved documents destruction service at the company mainly in terms of productivity. This fact was confirmed and hailed by four out of five (80%) of the managers selected from the head office.

However, the fifth manager felt that although this improvement was there, the company needed to innovate more as the technological environment was rapidly changing, hence the company needed to do more to avoid being outpaced by competitors. Also identified was the adoption of the latest in- fire suppression and counter-intrusion technology, optimum security and hi-tech tracking systems to ensure that maximum record security is assured at all times.

According to the managers, adoption of modern technology at Securit had not only improved the records management and handling capacity but also had doubled the record handling security and protection level thus helping the company win clients’ confidence.

In addition, adoption of the proprietary technology in mobile shredding trucks provided an opportunity for the company’s business expansion. However, 16% of the respondents (junior employees) felt that the effects of this technology were negative since they were not offered adequate training on its use. They however expressed optimism that it would soon compound to the company’s efficiency once they get used to it. Asked whether the development and adoption of information systems at Securit would improve the efficacy of records storage and provide availability for future electronics records storage, 99 % of the workers interviewed pointed out that this was the most humble opportunity to improve records management services at Securit as presented by rapid technological innovation especially in records management software (ERM).The respondents agreed in totality that adoption of more advanced mobile shredding trucks (machine) will increase the company’s record destruction capacity to a great extent.

Majority (79%) of the respondents felt that although branches merging would reduce operation cost, it would in return reduce the companies market coverage hence it was more appropriate if the company was to look for alternative cost reduction means other that merging branches. 7% were however for the idea that the non-performing branches should be closed all together in an attempt to reduce the operation cost for the company. On whether the newest transportation router software would reduce the on-road truck time, majority of the respondents 96% felt that it would to a grater extent while the rest felt that it would need to be pilot tested so as to ascertain its workability before adopting it.

Conclusion

Securit as a company has been performing well, registering a robust growth from one branch to more than one hundred and forty in the eighteen years of its existence. The company offers a wide range of services related to information management mainly in records management, protection and safe destruction of records that are no longer required by the organization through its famous mobile shredding service. However, the company has not yet realized its potential irrespective of its much advantage over rivals in terms of market share, finance and customers goodwill. Most of the opportunities that are presented to the company rest in the ever evolving technological environment. These include advancement in information systems, modern and advanced shredding technology, transportation router software, records management software, content management systems among others. Although the company has attempted to incorporate modern and advanced technology in its customer’s service, employees still feel that more improvements need to be done so as to help the company maintain its favorable market position and outpace competitors while increasing the company’s productivity. Among other suggestions that employees feel can help the company is axing of nonperforming branches to reduce cost.

Reference List

Eddy J. (2005). Steps to Effective Records Management: An Elementary Approach Fall.Vol.2, No. 1: pp 207-221

Fredman J. (2005) Business Opportunities in Records Management, Record Protection and Documents Destruction inc.Journal of Information Management, Vol.21, Issue 2, pp.50-67

Gillian O. (2007) Records Management and Information Related Risks. How Safe Are Your Records? pp 2-23. Web.

Marcus H, Peter J., Olivia G and Alex J (2000) Principles of Records Destruction ISBN-2000 pp 48-63

Securit Information Security (2008) The Company’s Official Website. Web.

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