|A group of archivists from Fortune 500 corporations met
on June 19-8-19, 1998 at Procter & Gamble Headquarters in
Cincinnati, Ohio. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss in depth in
a small group two issues of mutual concern: electronic records and the
globalization of corporations.
The following individuals were present:
- Elizabeth Adkins, Ford Motor Company
- Mary Edith Arnold, Motorola
- Susan Box, AIG
- Kathleen Collins, Bank of America
- Jean Elliott, Chase
- Amy Fischer, Procter & Gamble
- Claudette John, Cigna
- Paul Lasewicz, IBM
- Phil Mooney, Coca-Cola
- Ed Rider, Procter & Gamble
- Becky Tousey, Kraft Foods
Gregory S. Hunter of Long Island University served as facilitator for
the meeting and prepared these notes.
Thursday afternoon was devoted to a sharing of issues and concerns
around the two major themes of the meeting. Friday was devoted to
summarizing best practices and shaping potential solutions. At the very
end of the meeting the group focused on where it would like to go from
here as a group.
Because of the frank nature of the discussions, the group agreed that
the meeting notes would not identify specific corporations by name.
The main points raised in the discussion were:
- It is difficult to capture electronic documentation in a global
organization. Most corporate archives have a "mission without
mandate" -- everything is based upon informal networking.
- Mergers have led to new bosses without archival awareness. They
also have raised issues about how to merge collections.
- Electronic records are created without much thought -- they are
more "informal" than other records. One consequence is
that the archives does not get the same kinds of records from the
chairman’s office because of the use of electronic systems.
- There is a lack of training. Records management does not offer
training in how to create and label boxes.
- The archives has boxes of unappraised records. We can’t keep up
with the processing of paper records.
- The organizational placement of archives and records management is
an issue. Often they are placed in the Facilities area. This means
the archives only is involved with appraisal at the end of the life
cycle, at the time of destruction notices.
- There is a need for more training of staff in various departments.
- Our issues are not the company’s issues; the company has a
- To summarize the context of corporate archives: small staffs,
mission without mandate, stacks of unprocessed records; heavy
reference load, and a shortage of space.
- The corporate Intranet is a way to reach out internationally.
- One corporate archives has tracked print and media advertising.
Should they track advertising on the Internet? Can they move beyond
just printing out and filing copies of Web pages?
- One company uses a software "web whacker" to capture
corporate sites and all of the links. They store this on a Zip
- It is impossible to stay on top of electronic technologies.
- Space is a big issue.
- There is a transitional nature to business -- employees turn over
- Intranets are being used for more types of information: general
distribution of notices, press releases, policy and procedure
statements, etc. In fact, these may be easier to collect via an
electronic distribution list: we can collect them from the start.
- One strategy is not to preserve an entire Web site, but rather the
records behind the site.
- In the last ten years, corporate acquisitions have changed.
Corporations now take a more active approach.
- How computer-savvy are corporate archivists? They need to get more
conversant with the technology.
- In terms of overseas operations, how can we document them without
more money or people?
- How do we define what we are doing as archivists? Is it really an
"international archives," or are we a "North American
archives with an international component." Electronic systems
may allow more international documentation.
- The central question is: What will be the shape of the archives in
- How/what do we collect now? Fewer manuals and policies are being
- We can view interest in the impending millennium as a stepping
stone and opportunity to increase budgets. We need to deal with
electronic records now or we with have nothing to deal with in the
- "Documenting" can be more expensive and labor intensive
in electronic form. There also is a great deal of error and
misinformation in the Internet.
- What does your management expect you to be preserving? Do we need
to do a better job of communicating our mission?
- What are the "business needs?" Do the business units
even know their needs?
- Electronic records can be an opportunity to think globally,
rather than an obstacle.
- One corporation has issued a directive that electronic media will
be the official storage medium. Have all the implications of this
policy been considered?
- Corporate archives tend to be strong in executive correspondence
and weak in documenting other areas, like manufacturing. The latter
often is done in technical libraries.
- Is there an "official corporate language?" Some
corporations are very decentralized and globally dispersed. One
company is a holding company for over 2,000 separate, decentralized
- Staffing issues are crucial: how does an archives get additional
- Corporations only spend money on profit centers. Most profit
centers don’t have records managers.
- Poor description of boxes stored in the records center is a
- Some companies only have one Intranet; others have multiple
Intranets. Are the problems of documentation different in these two
- We seldom ask the question: What kind of information technology do
the majority of employees have? Can all employees access electronic
information? For example, does everyone have speakers on PCs?
- Can there be a "records management function" without a
real records manager? Sometimes as archivists we have to "go
around" an ineffective records management program.
- Some corporate managements "get it" in terms of
archives; others don’t.
- Does senior management use computers? This is important to know
before trying to build support for an electronic records program.
- Information Technology teams have a great deal of turnover. How do
we build a long-term relationship with them?
- A related issue is the electronic dissemination of archival
- Having everything, full text, on line is too much for end users.
We still need archivists as filters/gate keepers. This is a
value-added role for the archivist.
- Many in our organizations are asking: "How do I access
information about ...?" Archivists need to get out in front, to
propose solutions, and to drive the process.
- Recent mergers with various libraries within the corporation has
greatly helped one archives.
- In cooperative efforts, techies tend to overwhelm others.
- It is crucial to align the archives on a regular basis with the
computer professionals in the corporation. One successful approach
has been to get an "IS liaison" appointed to work with the
- An issue is records now only "born" electronically, like
phone directories and press releases. These documents are no longer
distributed on paper.
- Archivists may be able to bring "political clout" to the
table. We can offer this to Information Technology. Archivists
should not be apologetic.
- Archivists also speak for the end users in system design.
- The "IS view" is short term while the "archives
view" is long term.
- Everyone now is focusing on solving the "Year 2000
- We need a partnership relationship with IS. One archives has an IS
person assigned to its group. This IS person’s annual performance
review is based in part on archives input. Archivists’
relationships with IS need to go beyond just calling the Help Desk.
- Can we use alliances with corporate attorneys to move us forward
- One strategy is to establish a pilot project to preserve
electronic versions of items previously preserved on paper. These
items often are found on the corporate Intranet. One approach is to
establish your own "archives server" where IS can migrate
this data. This is a "custodial view" of electronic
- If the records are electronic, do you even need an
archives? We no longer need to move paper to the archives to
- At a minimum, the archives will be the custodian of the
"metadata" whether or not it is the custodian of the
records. We cannot fight the fact that corporations are getting more
connected rather than less connected.
- There probably are two choices:
Departments keep things electronically with the archives only
providing pointers. The originator would remain the custodian for
the foreseeable future.
Departments transfer records to the archives
- We should consider a "Corporate Information Locator
System" role for the archives. This model has been used in
government archives for a number of years. One corporation already
has a Global Knowledge Catalog into which the archives may be able
- IS people may have money, but they don’t have personnel.
- One corporation’s archival Web site has "frequently asked
questions." This frees up the archival staff to do other
things, more value-added services. Speechwriters were an important
ally for one archives.
- Another corporation’s archival Website has over 1,000 hits per
month. It is important to document activity on the archives Web
page. This corporation is trying to market the Web site to even more
internal users. They are trying to get resources to people,
rather than making them come to the archives.
- A key issue is indexing images. Indexing is very time
consuming. Another good pilot project would be to establish
corporate standards for image databases, using archival images as
the beginning point.
- One archives is saving the corporation at least $40 every time a
digital image prevents the duplication of a photograph.
- Consumer products companies have found that brand managers want
"content" for their Web sites. The brands have paid for
the scanning and indexing of photos from the archives.
During the Friday morning discussion, the attendees summarized and
synthesized corporate strategies and best practices for electronic
records. The beginning point was a summary document that Greg prepared
following the previous day’s discussion.
The strategies and best practices were in three areas:
- Role of the Archives
- Internet/Intranet strategies
- Establish a partnership with Information Services (IS). Have IS
appoint a "liaison" to the Archives so that we will have
someone who understands archival needs in more depth.
- Establish partnerships with others throughout the corporation who
share archival concerns.
- Determine what we want the role of the archives to be in the
electronic environment. Clearly communicate this to management and
- Begin training archives/records management staff. Such training
needs to be systematic, not piecemeal as is most often the case.
Attendees recommended purchasing the new video "Into the
Future" which deals with the preservation of digital
- Begin to bring electronic records issues into general staff
orientation/training sessions. In particular, use sessions on e-mail
to talk about broader electronic records concerns.
Role of Archives
- The archives is the advocate for historical considerations. It is
the repository for "lessons learned" that can be used for
continual renewal. The archives can help instill pride during
orientation sessions. An Intranet site for corporate history is a
- The archives needs a "seat at the table" when new
systems are being designed. At one corporation, the archivist is a
member of the Intranet Team and the Year 2000 Team.
- The archives can serve a role as the "corporate information
locator." At a minimum, the archives should be the custodian of
metadata, if not the actual archival records. There should be links
both to and from the archives Web page.
- Selectively download and preserve record series that we know have
historical value and that the archives previously received on paper.
- Print out on paper as a "hedge" during this transition
- If preserving records digitally, we need our own "virtual
archives server," rather than trying to use floppy disks or
CD-ROMs. We need larger storage capacity if electronic records will
come to the archives
- We need an easy way to move digital information into the
recordkeeping system. One archives "cuts and pastes" into
a recordkeeping system notices distributed via e-mail.
- We need an easy way to capture snapshots of an entire Web site,
including links. Two specific software packages were discussed.
- It is important to keep statistics on "hits" to Web
sites. You can benchmark the archives site against other sites
within the corporation. One archives site receives the most hits of
any site in the corporation. In addition, knowing the number of hits
on other Web sites may help with appraisal decisions.
- There is an obvious business value to developing and posting
historical databases and timelines to the Intranet.
Greg also prepared a number of areas for strategic decisions that he
phrased as a series of dichotomies:
|Records "born" digitally
Records existing on paper
|Go it alone
Migrate to analog
|Finding aids on line
Archival collections on line
Leave them alone
|Strong, centralized records
Weak, ineffective records management
Other points made during the morning were:
- The IBM Digital Library product does not yet have a
"collection management" component. Paul may help them to
design this using the corporate archives as a test case. You can
find out more about the product by typing "digital
library" into the search engine at the IBM Web site. The
archivists at IBM, Microsoft, and other technology corporations can
play a key role on behalf of the profession is getting archival
concerns before system designers.
- One corporation developed its own image library. This has turned
into a profit center -- there is a direct return on the investment.
This corporation may roll this model image library out to other
- Another corporation is developing a "Global Knowledge
Catalog" for Intranets in cooperation with a software vendor.
- "Clean out days" have been successful in reducing paper.
Is there an equivalent way to do this for electronic files?
- At least one corporation has linked external knowledge
(competitive intelligence) with internal knowledge (archives,
research & development).
- One corporation has a directive that Web sites be updated
regularly. There has been a discussion of the archives becoming the
repository for "static" information Web sites. The
archives would become the custodian of selected records that were
slated to be removed from the corporate Web site because they had
not been updated.
- One corporation is saving the entire standard "desk top
build" (look and software) on an annual basis to be able to
reload information in the future.
- Some archives are trying to add databases to Web sites. This is an
indication that the archives is trying to share information, not
keep it behind locked doors
- No one is thinking of putting finding aids online with Encoded
Archival Description (EAD). It is more important to corporate
archivists to have user friendly finding aids with hierarchical
menus, etc. The main point is to have "mission appropriate
description." Users are overloaded with information.
The Friday morning discussion focused on the globalization of
corporations. It had two parts:
- Documenting the global corporation
- Serving the global corporation
Documenting the Global Corporation
- The first question is: is documenting the global corporation part
of the mission of the archives? Do we really have global
responsibility? No one present had explicit language in his or her
mission authorizing this approach, though at least one mission
statement implied global documentation.
- We need to clarify the expectations of management. Resources will
flow from this.
- In some countries there is a sense of regional identity. They don’t
want someone from headquarters coming in to tell them how to run the
- Some countries do not permit the removal of records because of the
fear of loss of cultural legacy. Often there are legal and
regulatory issues around the subject of cultural legacy.
- One company has a very clear mandate from the CEO to document the
international operations. The archives began with an oral history
project in Russia. They are developing an "e-mail
template" to send on a regular basis to country managers to
collect information about key activities. They have asked the CEO’s
office to preserve international reports that it receives. The
archivists visit the Public Relations people in various countries --
these are the people who have the history. They collect ideas for
exhibits and displays.
- Some companies are changing structure. Instead of organizing by country,
they are organizing by business unit across country lines.
Maybe archivists should be assigned to specific business units?
- There can be problems in regulated industries. Different countries
have different retention and regulatory requirements.
- One approach is to emphasize pride in international operations:
"We don’t have much in our archives about your operations. We’d
like to help you preserve it. Call us if you want to move forward on
- One archivist visits corporate offices whenever traveling. This
increases the knowledge of what exists internationally and puts a
"face" on the archives.
- One corporation is emphasizing making duplicates of photos and
films rather than asking people to send their originals.
- How can we best use our "clout?" Globalization will
require big resources. We need to get top-level buy-in and support.
- European terminology is different. When we say
"archives," they think "records management." In
addition, Europeans tend to think longer term when thinking about
- As groups move into new markets, the heritage of the company is a
way to distinguish it from the competition. Managers also are
interested in previous activity in the country.
- In one company there is no business justification yet (hard dollar
argument) for collecting globally. In this company products tend to
be introduced globally at the same time as in the U.S.
- Direct access to the CEO is a two-edged sword. Can you complain
over your the head of your boss? While there may be fewer levels
now, we still need to go through the chain of command.
- The archives needs a series of allies at different levels. It
takes years of plugging away at these relationships.
- How can an archives remain relevant to a global corporation if it
does not document the global corporation? The same can be said for
companies using electronic records extensively.
- We need an endorsement of philosophy, but does management realize
- We need to discover "pockets of global information:"
advertising, brand management, etc.
- With companies that have separate international components, we
need the support and clout of the international leaders. One
approach is to conduct oral history interviews with international
leaders when they come to headquarters.
- One company is considering establishing "satellite
archives" around the world.
- So much depends on relationships and relationship management.
- Archivists should turn "reference activity" into
"outreach/acquisition activity." You’re showing your
- The "top down hammer" is not the only way to build a
system. Another way is to help people in the trenches solve
problems. Use these examples to sell management on a larger project.
- Centralized records management has lost support in many
corporations. People in the corporations don’t understand the
distinction between archives and records management. There is little
training in records management. Almost no one is a corporation is
evaluated on "records management skills," even when
recordkeeping errors cost the corporation a great deal of money.
- One company has an excellent records management program developed
15 years ago with archival input. It is called "information
access," not records management. They have RM at all levels.
Records coordinators are trained. Compliance forms must be
completed. In terms of electronic records, each week everyone in the
corporation gets a notice about their expired electronic files, with
the option to retain or delete. Records analysts audit compliance.
- We need to emphasize that records management is a line, not a
- In some companies, paper and electronic records management are not
integrated. They may be managing "media" and
"formats," but they are not managing "records."
Providing Service to the Global Corporation
- Archivists need to develop tools for use: image management tools,
Intranet sites, etc.
- We can link through communication systems to sites that have never
had access to archival resources.
- The Web site makes visible the gaps in the archival collection –
there is no hiding what the archives has or does not have when the
finding aids are available on-line.
- Are Intranet sites available worldwide, beyond headquarters? This
is a huge opportunity. People are desperate for resource materials.
Archival photos, in particular, are very popular. There are real
cost savings associated with distributing photos digitally.
- Everyone has gotten requests from international locations for
support from the archives. The main requests are for images,
especially in marketing-driven companies.
- It is almost essential to have a scanner in the archives -- for
quick requests from the press, etc.
Friday Afternoon Discussion
The discussion on Friday afternoon focused on where we go from here
as a group. The following decisions were made:
- This should be an annual event.
- The purpose would be to define issues, publicize results, and
- In order to encourage the kind of information exchange and sharing
that happened at this meeting, the group should remain small.
Participants also need a certain experience level in large, global
- We will encourage other groups of business archivists to replicate
the model: focused discussions among a small group of peers.
- Elizabeth and Becky will make a brief report at the meeting of the
SAA Business Archives Section.
- We also may suggest program proposals for the SAA annual meeting.
There also was the suggestion that the group prepare
- We will post results to the Business Archives Listserv. Greg also
offered his Web site as a place for posting minutes or reports.
- Next year we hope to meet in New York City with AIG as a host. One
or two people may be added and we may also seek expert guest
- Next year’s meeting will be two full days and will probably be
limited to two topics. This will allow some "show and
- The group would like Greg to continue as facilitator.
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