Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Business archives in the press

It was good to see a piece on business archives and the positive contribution that archivists can play within commercial organisations in the Financial Times last week. Hopefully such positive press reminds senior decision makers that the effective management of its records is not just a ‘nice to have’ extra - useful for pulling together exhibitions of attractive curios to help decorate their foyer, but actually represents their company’s ‘corporate memory’ and as such has the potential sharpen its competitive edge and increase its profit margins. Certainly now, more than ever, such messages can only help strengthen the position of the corporate archive and its archivists.

What was, alas, a little more disappointing was not to see any mention within the piece of the vital role that records professionals (archivists and records managers) can play - and are playing - in ensuring the effective, efficient and legally compliant conduct of business operations. Nothing about the business benefits to be gained from knowing what information assets you hold and for introducing measures to ensure that such information is retained for as long as it is required (and no longer); nothing about the risks and costs (legal, financial and environmental) of retaining vast quantities of information for too long; nothing about how we can help tackle the increasingly high profile problems surrounding information security – particularly in relation to personal data or the role we can play in identifying and protecting vital records as part of disaster recovery and business continuity planning.

Of course there are limits to what can be covered within one newspaper article and it is clear that in this particular case the FT’s ‘angle’ was deliberately focused elsewhere. My concern is just that such a piece may still leave the CEO of a relatively young company or one without a rich visual heritage to plunder wondering ‘why is this relevant to me?’ whereas the reality is, of course, that it should be of relevance too all CEOs with an interest in how their business functions.

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