All businesses need to create and keep records, but why retain some permanently as archives?
Records both document and form part of business actions and as such provide evidence of a company's functions and activities. They also contain a wealth of information about the company's organisation, personnel, customers, products, markets, suppliers and a host of other aspects of its interaction with the economic and social community to which it belongs over time.
The majority of business records cease to be of value to the company that created them after varying periods of time. This may be because the statutory requirement to keep them has expired or because the primary business need for their retention is no longer valid.
But no company should be too ready to destroy these and other types of records. A company's records constitute an asset that is unique to a particular business, and in which financial, human and other resources have been routinely invested. The selection of certain records for preservation as archives, enables a company to leverage the value of that asset and the investment made in creating it.
By appraising records against carefully constructed criteria, a significant body of records - usually no more than 5 - 8% of the total created - may be preserved as business archives.
These will be records of continuing value to both the company and the community of which it is part. The archives will contain knowledge and experience gained over the years of doing business, knowledge and experience that cannot be bought or acquired elsewhere, and which can be of unparalled benefit to present and future management.
In today's business environment, a company needs to distinguish itself from its competitors to obtain a market edge. In this regard, its reputation and identity are critical, and both can be supported and enhanced through exploiting its archives and heritage.
The use of business archives to increase brand awareness, and as a source of new product development and innovation, has been proved by many corporations. As, too has their value in generating loyalty and pride in a company's employees, customers and shareholders and giving it a competitive advantage.
A company should think twice, therefore, before destroying business records, and ask whether their transfer to a business archives might not bring additional benefits to the company and add to the documentary heritage of the community as a whole.