Sixth Annual Meeting of the
Corporate Archives Forum
June 26-27. 2003
Wayzata, MN

  Meeting Notes


The sixth annual meeting of the Corporate Archives Forum was held June 26-27, 2003 in Wayzata, Minnesota.  Cargill Incorporated hosted the meeting.  The following individuals were present:

  •  Elizabeth Adkins, Ford Motor Company

  •  Laurie Banducci, The Gap

  • Mimi Bowling, Random House

  • Bruce Bruemmer, Cargill

  • Kathleen Collins, Bank of America

  • Phil Mooney, Coca-Cola Company

  • Jane Nokes, Scotia Bank

  • Nicole Pelsinsky, Microsoft Corporation

  • Ed Rider, Procter & Gamble

  • Deborah Skaggs, Frank Russell Company

  • Becky Haglund Tousey, Kraft Foods


Paul Lasewicz of IBM Corporation and Leslie Simon of CIGNA participated via teleconference.  Greg Hunter of Long Island University served as facilitator and note-taker.

To protect confidentiality, these meeting notes do not attribute comments to any attendee or company.  The attendees are sharing these notes with the wider archival community in the hopes of furthering the discussion of issues.

This year’s meeting included the following topics:

  • Developing a Global Archives Proposal

  • Productivity in Archives

  •  IT Initiatives:  E-Mail Archiving and Instant Messaging

  •  Outsourcing Pros and Cons

  • Metadata for Electronic Records

  • Using E-Room Software for Archival Teams

  • Copyright and Talent Rights in Archival Collections

  • Designing an Historical Facts Database

  • Benchmarking Business Archives

  • Business Process Mapping

  •  Informal Survey:  Salaries and Staff Sizes

  •  Ideas for Next Year


Developing a Global Archives Proposal

One archivist has spent a great deal of time developing a proposal to identify and manage archival records around the globe.  The steps that this archivist followed were:

  1. Laying the Foundation.  The archives built upon its good reputation and track record.  The archivist tried to demonstrate the value that would be added to the corporation by managing global archival records.  A major anniversary also raised awareness of the need for global archives.
  2. Birth of the Idea.  The idea originated during a meeting at which the archivist was not even present.  This was a “top down” interest that led to the formation of a task force to consider what a global archives program would look like.
  3. The Proposal.  The task force drafted a four page narrative report outlining a data-gathering phase involving site visits to selected international locations. 
  4. The CEO ultimately approved and funded the plan for this data-gathering phase.
  5. Plan for the Site Visits.  The site visits are intended to get the big picture, not to conduct a detailed records survey.  The site visits will try to gather information about the following:  business needs, cultural and legal challenges, storage locations, and ways to make records more useful to employees. Recommendations will be formulated based on the findings and presented to management.

Corporate archivists have discovered that subsidiaries in some countries previously donated records to museums or other private institutions.  This can be both a negative and a positive factor.  In some cases, the donations were not authorized and are causing access problems.  In other cases, the donations have been a collaborative process involving true partnering.  The business archivist should not rule out such donations, especially when records cannot be removed from the country of origin because they are cultural artifacts.  One corporation has a goal of “enriching communities,” and has encouraged the donation of records and artifacts of primarily local interest.

There are several potential models for managing global records:

  • Centralize all records at headquarters
  • Keep records decentralized but use the corporate archives to coordinate activities
  • Leave international operations completely on their own
  • Create a “virtual corporate archives” through the Web

Records do not have to be moved to the headquarters as long as the international activities are linked to the corporate archives program.

Corporations are discovering different levels of archival expertise around the globe.  In addition, all corporate archives programs are underfunded, especially in terms of full-time staff.  For these reasons, each corporate archivist will have to determine the best way to spread resources among core and satellite programs.

Another corporation has begun its global planning by reflecting on how the archives at headquarters began.  The archives was established in Corporate Affairs, which had a great deal of historical materials but was unable to answer reference questions because the materials were unprocessed.  This archives also was linked to library staffs worldwide.

Productivity in Archives 

The business literature discusses the fact that the United States has maintained its economic edge in the 1990s through productivity gains.  The studies cite information/computer technology as a key factor – it has changed business practices.

Where are the productivity gains in archives?  Has our use of information technology (Spindex, MARC, EAD, etc.) increased archival productivity?

Productivity is defined as the ratio between input and output.  Input includes such factors as labor, capital, and knowledge.  Productivity increases can take two forms:  new deliverables (such as “customer value”) or improved operational efficiency.

Why should archivists even bother to think about this?  There are a number of reasons:

  • Bob Shuster wrote an article on processing costs that showed how expensive archival work really is.

  •  Various outsourcing firms claim that they are more efficient and cost-effective than in-house archives.

  • Productivity can be a factor in employee performance reviews and evaluations.

  • Knowing the costs of archival work can help determine if a collection really is worth acquiring.

In general, archivists have done a poor job with cost analysis.   Studies have shown that the rate for processing a cubic foot of archival materials can vary from 1.04 to 25.2 hours.  Ultimately, archivists may not want to know the true costs of processing!

Three of the attendees gave some advanced thought to the topic of productivity in archives.  Their comments were:

  1.  The series concept can be viewed as a productivity device.  The only example to increase productivity here was to eliminate scope and content notes.  The computer has increased the front-end work of archivists.  In situations of fully mediated access (the archivist conducting all research into the collection), EAD may not be worth the cost of creation.  Ultimately, it is impossible to increase productivity without “metrics” – measures of actual production.

  2. Productivity does not happen in a vacuum.  For example, processing a collection more quickly may actually increase the time required for reference work.  Increasing levels of description pays dividends in providing reference services.

  3. We have to be wary of hurting our successors by not investing in processing.  We need metrics to measure progress toward strategic goals that are meaningful to management.

In some companies, the philosophy is that “everyone should find his or her own information.”  This has led to the closing of corporate libraries.  The bottom line, however, is that employees don’t want to do the research – they just want an answer.  Productivity gains in archives need to reflect this level of reference service.

Computer companies are developing “federated databases” that will integrate different databases.  However, we still will need people to enter the data.

One company has the originating departments doing some of the data entry on records they are sending to the archives.  This also helps to make reference “self service” for the users.

In the old days, archives had to work within the space they were given; now we have to work within the information system we are given.

We have to make certain that our data are not too insular.  One company is thinking of a “shopping mall for information” that would feature a common point for access.  We can sell database improvements more easily as an integrated process.

An archives database will not answer questions; rather, it tells someone where to look for the answer.  As such, an archives database cannot be self-service.

Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner have received a research grant to look at productivity issues.  Their hypothesis is that researchers will prefer medium-level access to more collections rather than higher-level access to fewer collections.  They also will be looking at the opportunity costs of resource-intensive processing.  CAF members agreed to be survey partners for the project.

Are there methods we should be looking at to make processing more efficient?  But we still need metrics for what we are doing.  One company does “phased processing,” where they share costs with clients through charge-backs.

Another archivist has developed a “Six Sigma project” on the cost to the corporation of unprocessed collections.  Six Sigma is methodology developed at General Electric to apply statistical measures to quality improvement projects.

IT Initiatives:  E-Mail Archiving and Instant Messaging 

In terms of context, the archivist giving the presentation has been with the company for over 6 years, is part of the legal department reporting to the general counsel, and is developing an integrated archives and records management program.

From the start, e-mail has been of particular interest to the company:  Information Technology (IT) retains backups for 10 days; employees were given no training in managing e-mail; and e-mail presents a high compliance risk.

This archivist is doing “business process mapping.”  They will identify the role of e-mail in the various processes.  Reports about the business processes and records issues are issued by the Legal Department, giving them more clout.

The company’s Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) does not automatically “check in” e-mail.  (They are using FileNet Panagon).  They have to check in each e-mail message manually.  Another company continues to print out e-mail messages as the official copy.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently fined 5 firms a total of $8.25 million for failing to preserve e-mail.  At least one CAF member’s corporation has asked the Gartner Group and other similar firms to look at e-mail archiving.

It is important for the corporate archivist to talk to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to clarify the definition of a “record.”

There are two related issues:

  • Files created in collaborative workgroup software.  Are there records that need to be retained?

  • Decommissioned systems.  Who will identify and preserve the records when the system goes out of active use?

One archivist is working with Internal Audit to make Information Technology aware of its responsibilities for records.  This archivist also works with the Risk Management Committee.  To have any impact, the archivist needs the “decision players” on any committee for records management.

One company is looking at e-mail archiving systems.  They have narrowed the field to two application service providers (ASPs):  Iron Mountain and Zantaz.  The latter has acquired I-Witness Software, designed to satisfy records principles and to serve as a compliant electronic recordkeeping system.

Instant Messaging is likely to be the next area of interest and litigation.  Instant messages are not normally retained when used as an add-on to subscription Internet services, even in highly regulated environments.  In one corporation, the legal department has forbidden the use of instant messaging.  Another corporation has outsourced the capture of instant messages to an ASP called Omnipod.  It satisfies regulatory requirements for registered broker-dealers, however, the broker-dealer must be aware of stipulating these condition in their contract with the ASP.

Outsourcing Pros and Cons 

In a 1997 article in the American Archivist, Ellen Gartrell outlined seven options for structuring a corporate archives:

  1. No archives.  Everything is discarded or warehoused when it becomes inactive.

  2.  Historical files” saved.  This usually is a small amount retained in a corporate library.

  3. In-house corporate archives.  Full service archives accessible and proximate to corporate users.

  4. Outsourced corporate archives.  A completely commercially-managed archives.

  5. Archives maintained in outside repository with continued company ownership and various levels of company control.  This is an ongoing, professional relationship.

  6.  Archives given to outside repository.  There is a cooperative, ongoing relationship but no company ownership.

  7. Archives donated as one-time gift to outside repository.  There is no ongoing relationship or control.

Individuals at high enough levels within corporations seem to be able to do almost whatever they want, including donating corporate historical records to outside repositories.

Outsourcing can be positive:  it may save a collection from destruction.

Archives get outsourced because the archives cannot provide good return on investment for the company.  You have to find a way to measure the difference your program makes.  “Soft” arguments (“the value of history”) may work once or twice, but not forever.

Successful corporate archives programs have had strong, long-term leadership.  What will happen when these long-time archivists leave?  It is important to think about succession management.  In some companies, succession planning is part of the performance review process.

What should we be looking for in a successor?  Not just technical archival skills, but the ability to think strategically, make effective presentations, and manage successfully.  One question was whether you should take people displaced from elsewhere within the corporation.  Attendees reported both positive and negative experiences with this.

At the moment, the larger political environment in corporations is toward outsourcing.  Maybe we just have to accept that this is a cyclical matter – in a downturn, everything gets reduced.  The “quarterly thinking approach” is the real danger.

One corporate archives was reviewed by the internal auditors.  During this process, the auditors spoke to the clients of the archives.  The clients spoke very positively about the archives and its services.

In another corporation, it has been a plus to bring archives and records management together.  The corporate attorneys have a deep stake in seeing that the program succeeds.  The lawyers also don’t want to have outside people managing a confidential function like archives.

In the post-Enron climate, continuity and memory are becoming increasingly important.

Are there specific functions or activities than an archives can outsource?  Some possibilities are:  scanning, exhibit design, and other projects with no long-term accumulation of knowledge.

Electronic records will probably be an undesirable area to outsource.  In many corporations, however, significant parts of the IT function already are being outsourced.  It will be important to establish a dialogue with the IT person responsible for outsourcing.

Fear of unauthorized access to company or customer information can be a selling point for retaining an archives in-house:  loss of control over proprietary and strategic information, customer privacy violations, outside access to trade secrets, etc.  We should document “horror stories” involving outsourced archives.

One archivist has outsourced processing on an annual renewable contract.  This has worked out well.  Someone else pointed out, however, that processing also has a strong appraisal component.  This can make it difficult to outsource processing.

In another corporation, everything has to be structured as a “project,” including processing.  They have to develop specific guidelines for processing and conduct any appraisal up-front.  The contractors also have to be provided with the taxonomy for description.  The key is that processing is “project managed” – in the past, processing was a never-ending process.

Metadata for Electronic Records 

One corporate archives and records management program with the authority to issue standards is developing a uniform metadata standard.  They see certain advantages of a metadata standard:

  • Consistent management of electronic records

  •  Increased search accuracy

  • Coordinated searches across repositories

They began by researching international standards as well as metadata sets already in use within the corporation.  They then analyzed potential fields by using index cards to sort and compile the information.

Though the full standard is not yet ready, the archives has prepared a metadata dictionary specifying two types of metadata:

  • Required metadata.  This must be included in all applications.

  • Supplemental metadata.  While this also is required, it only is required for certain subsets of applications

Since both types of metadata are required, it was suggested that the categories be called “global” and “functional,” or something similar.

Some of the key questions and issues that have arisen during this process are:

  • How do you identify “owners” of some controlled vocabulary fields?

  • How do you check the validity of the data entered?

  • How do you apply the standard to structured information (databases, etc.)?

  • Will the standard only apply to new systems or will it extend to existing ones?

  • How will exemptions to the standard be granted?  (There are bound to be some exemptions.)

  • Where will the metadata be stored?  Will it be with the records or separate?

  • How will the standard apply to e-mail?  (At the moment, it cannot be applied to e-mail in Outlook.)

  • What will happen with records on shared drives?  (The standard cannot be applied at the present time.

The archives anticipates that there will be about 35 metadata fields, with most being system-generated.  Each field in the metadata dictionary will be described as follows:

  • Display Name.  Label name of the field that appears on the application interface.

  •  Definition.  Description field use.

  • Purpose.  Rationale for collecting the information.

  •  Required/Supplemental.  General category of metadata.

  • Data Type.  Is the field Text, Numeric, Date, or Boolean?

  • Repeatable Field.  Can the field have more than one data value?

  • Default Value.  Is a predictable or repeatable data value appropriate?  If yes, what is it?

  •  Population Rules.  Is filling the field mandatory by the user?

  •  Changeable Field.  Can this field be edited by the user or is the data static after entry?

  • Assigned By.  Where does the data come from:  system or user?

  • Controlled Vocabulary.  Is there an authoritative list of data values?

  • Controlled Vocabulary Owner.  Who is responsible for maintaining the list?

  • Metadata Classification.  Is the metadata content, structure, or context?

  • Notes.  Any additional information about the use or implementation of the field.

  • Example.  How the field is populated.

Another corporation is using Stellant for content management.  The archives is inheriting records with different metadata sets.  The archives is going to have to determine if they will re-catalog the records.  Also, will they add all of the user metadata to the archives, even if the metadata goes beyond the archives’ requirements?

Using Collaborative Workgroup Software for Archival Teams 

There is a category of software designed for “e-groups,” teams that need to collaborate across distances.  One archives is using this software for its staff. 

The archives decided to implement the software for the following reasons:

  •  A geographically dispersed staff needs to function as a team.

  • The size of the collection and needs of the internal customer base put a great deal of pressure on standard arrangement and description methods – they are not granular enough.

  • No one person is familiar with the entire collection, yet the Archives Team needs to connect disparate points from across the collection in order to answer reference questions efficiently and to pump content to the Web site.

  • Might this be the best way to standardize policies and procedures across repositories when documenting a global company?

The e-group software does the following:

  •  It shares and organizes content at a more granular level than traditional archival practice.  Communications are organized in threaded discussions.

  • It reduces e-mail clutter and everything is presented in a consistent manner to the Archives Team.

  •  It tracks workflow.

  •  It manages the team’s knowledge.

The system works because the archives uses pre-defined categories for the threaded discussions, such as:  reference, anecdotes, Web ideas, and policies and procedures.  The titles of the postings must use the archives’ subject hierarchy as found in the collection management system.  While the staff can search by key word, most times they do it by subject heading.

The main obstacle is not the technology, but the people.  This has been the experience with much of knowledge management.  A great deal of work is front-loaded.  Using the pre-defined taxonomy was a key to success.

Copyright and Talent Rights in Archival Collections 

One corporation has been digitizing television advertisements.  Since 2001, over 8,000 ads have been restored, cataloged, digitized, and donated to an archival repository.  The tax deduction for the donation already exceeds $3.6 million.

For the digitizing, they are using MPEG2 format.

The combination of digitizing and donation has saved a great deal of storage space.  The corporation was paying $300,000-500,000 per year to store the television ads.  They also have taken a passive asset and turned it into an active one.  Once they are finished with U.S. ads, they will turn to international ads.

Each ad has a metadata page that includes “talent rights.”  This extends beyond copyright to include various actors and musicians who worked on the ads.  Before an ad can be reused for any purpose, it is necessary to determine if the talent have any residual rights requiring compensation.

As the archives acquires a new ad, they capture information on talent rights from the production materials (contracts, correspondence, etc.)  Much of this material remains in the hands of advertising agencies.

In the past, this corporation (as with many others) did not have a process for handling talent records.  The contracts with advertising agencies did not deal with the ownership of the talent records.  As a result, the agencies considered these records to be proprietary and did not release them to the client’s archives.

This year, the archives was able to insert wording into the master contracts with advertising agencies dealing with talent records and the storage of production materials related to advertising.

The new contract makes clear that talent records and production materials are the client’s property.  Advertising agencies are required to transfer creative materials to the client archives after two years.  Termination of an agency contract triggers immediate transfer.

Of particular importance is the archives’ ability to enforce this transfer.  Failure to comply will result in the forfeiture of 25% of the agency’s fees.

Some of the key results of the project to date are:

  •  Information is on-line and accessible for people who need to clear talent rights.

  • Key assets are protected from inadvertent destruction or “casual records management.”

  • Vital information is maintained and re-purposed.

  • 16 commercials are totally rights-free.

  • Another 160 commercials have been identified as having some level of talent buy-out.

  • The archives has compiled very specific information on pay scales for individual talent.


Designing an Historical Facts Database 

One archives is developing a database of ready-reference historical facts.  They want the database to be

  • Robust in capacity and design-potential
  • Able to grow
  • Accessible through a user-friendly interface on the company Intranet
  • Easy to migrate data from
  • Based upon a software product likely to be supported for twenty years

The archives ultimately decided on Oracle rather than a SQL database.

This corporation has a complex “family tree.”  Because of various mergers, there are over 2,000 corporate entities whose facts will be in this database.  The archives takes a hierarchical approach, relating the corporate entities to the last major merger partner.

To keep the database from getting unwieldy, searches usually involve a subset differentiated by country or state.  Some other fields are:

  • Corporate entity name
  • Last/major merger partner
  • Corporate name/subsidiary name
  • Biographical name
  • Subject (each “ merger family” can have its own subjects)
  • Note fields (for the fact statement, extended stories,or short anecdotes)
  • Source of the fact.  Each fact must be documented.  At the moment, the corporation is maintaining a file of photocopies supporting each fact.

The archives has experienced a number of challenges in the two years it has been developing the database:

  • The archives should be entitled to good support from Information Technology, but does not always receive it.  The biggest problem has been IT project staff turnover.
  • Populating the database is labor-intensive, but it only needs to be done once.
  • The archivist has been burned in the past by not being able to migrate data.  This remains a concern with the current project.
  • Backup of data must have built-in redundancy, so IT needs to treat this project with the same seriousness about backup as it treats customer transaction data.
  • It is difficult to establish consistency in the choice of “facts.”  What is significant and what is not?  Some facts are nebulous – they are not specific enough to document.
  • Subject indexing and analysis require a familiarity with all of the corporate entities and with the nature of our research requests to get it right.  At the moment, they are not using a taxonomy (hierarchical relationships) but are instead developing a “flat” hierarchy.
  • The database needs geographical balance and balance among corporate families.  This can be difficult because the archives knows less about some of the recently merged corporate families.


Authorizing Policy Statements 

The group had a brief discussion of authorizing policy statements.  Most of the archives have an authorizing policy statement though they take various forms.  Greg offered to receive such statements, make them anonymous, and re-post them on the Web.

One of the main questions was:  How do you enforce the authorizing policy?  Should the archives rely or personal relationships or should the archivist go “over the head” of a non-complying department head or executive?  Compliance can be especially tricky in a corporation trying to merge cultures as well as companies.

It was noted that the archivist may be able to use the Legal Department, especially if the recordkeeping issue involves a violation of the corporate “code of business conduct,” which organizations are taking very seriously in the post-Enron climate.

  Benchmarking Business Archives 

This year one archives was subjected to a thorough program review by in internal consulting and auditing group.  In an era of shrinking corporate resources, it is not a “given” that a department will continue in existence after such a review.

The auditors interviewed the business partners (internal clients) of the archives.  These partners gave the archives a 95% approval rating, which was very heartening.

The auditors also decided to benchmark the archives against other corporations.  The auditors selected two other corporate archives for comparison.  While the benchmarking proved favorable, it was just as much “luck of the draw” – the auditors picked corporations they knew from other relationships, not necessarily the best archival comparisons.

Each month, this corporation measures itself against its past and against its competitors.  Can the archives do the same?  In particular, how can we better explain to senior management what they can expect from an archival program?

This experience led the archivist to think that there needs to be a more systematic benchmarking of corporate archives, even though the CAF serves this purpose informally.

Other attendees pointed out that the positive internal audit review was far from luck.  The corporate archivist has managed the program well and laid the groundwork for a successful review.

Attendees brainstormed on different ways to categorize corporate archives for benchmarking purposes.  Among the suggestions were:

  • Family component or involvement

  • Trademark legacy/component

  •  Responsibility for records management

The Society of American Archivists has submitted a grant proposal for a survey of the “state of the profession.”  CAF members may have an opportunity to influence questions on the survey.

The archivist who recently was audited will try to get permission to distribute the benchmarking questionnaire used by the auditors.

Greg briefly discussed an idea for a benchmarking study that he presented at a previous CAF meeting.  Greg will revise the proposal and circulate it to the CAF members.

  Business Process Mapping 

One archivist, who also is responsible for records management, has done a great deal of “business process mapping,” decomposed to the records level in the last couple of years.  BPM involves analyzing business processes and presenting them in graphical form to aid in identifying records created during a particular business process.

Identifying work processes is not a new concept for archivists.  Even T.R. Schellenberg discussed it in his writings.

This archivist has two business analysts on the staff.  They use Visio to create the business process maps.  The presenter showed sample process maps from the purchasing function.  It took the two staff members two months to complete the mapping of this process and to complete records surveys.

The maps include what they call “swim lane diagrams” to identify the actors in the process, such as:

  •  Client

  •  Purchasing

  •  Suppliers

  •  Information repositories

The business process maps have gotten the attention of executive management.  This methodology is consistent with Six Sigma, which was discussed previously.

The BPM process is not intended to reengineer the business, though someone could use the maps as a starting point for reengineering.

The archives also conducts a separate survey of records, which they compare to the process map.  The combined approach is very good at identifying all records.

As a result of this process, the archives knows more about the detail of company operations than almost anybody.  In the future, they want to look at the highest risk areas of the company and map those processes.

They hope to move toward functional appraisal based upon an understanding of the business processes.  Functional appraisal is being used in some government archives.  It works as follows:

  • Conduct a functional analysis of the government (administering, licensing, etc.)

  •  For each function (such as licensing), describe the records together and schedule them together.

  • Set retention periods for the activity, rather than the record type.  Retention is governed by a “disposition authority” rather than a retention schedule.

  • Place the detailed records management responsibility with the agency.

  • Require agencies to submit annual reports to the Public Records Commission, which by law has final records management authority.

  • Conduct record audits.

Such an approach works very well if the archives believes that its purpose for existence is to identify archival records.  The functional approach minimizes attention to non-permanent records.

  Informal Survey:  Salaries and Staff Sizes 

The CAF attendees took the opportunity to benchmark a number of factors:

  • Manager’s salary

  • Principal assistant’s salary

  • Bonus (largest bonus in the last few years)

  • Size of collection (cubic feet)

  • Staff size:  company employees

  • Staff size:  temporary workers or contractors

Information was given anonymously to Greg, who compiled the following totals:

  • Bonus received:  9 yes, 2 no

  • Stock options received:  8 yes, 3 no








Manager’s salary






Principal assistant’s salary












Size of collection (cu. ft.)






Company employees






Temporary workers or contractors







Ideas for Next Year 

During the course of the two days, the following topics were suggested for next year:

  • Anniversary publications

  • Exhibits and promotional materials.

  • Sharing costs with clients.  Getting others to fund dedicated staff within the archives.

  • Compliance and archives (using the compliance process to benefit archives).

  • Oral history projects

  CAF members also identified some potential topics for SAA sessions:

  • Business process mapping

  • Productivity in archives


[Up] [CAF 1998] [CAF 1999] [CAF 2000] [CAF 2001] [CAF 2002] [CAF 2003] [CAF 2004]

Return to Hunter Information Management Home Page

Updated September 21, 2003