The idea of a paperless office has never been much more than a computer marketer’s dream. Concocted some 50 year ago as a heraldic slogan for the digital age, it spoke to operational efficiency, budgetary cost-savings and even environmental salvation.
But in those fifty years, paper use has quadrupled worldwide, according to a report from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), pushing global paper consumption to unsustainable levels.
The increase in paper usage parallels the growth in digital documentation, yet in spite of electronic communications and digital content options, one difficulty in “going paperless” is the fact that business communications is with other businesses and individuals, as opposed to just being internal. That means both the sender and the recipient must have easy access to appropriate software and hardware, and that challenges related to file format compatibility, system stability, user training and technological skills may arise.
Government regulations, industry standards, document retention and legal requirements — as well as other operational policies — can also be drags on the trend to paperless. In many companies, HR remains one of the biggest internal generators of paper documents, and they are often particularly sensitive documents containing with personal and private information.
Companies with multiple offices or operating facilities must often have duplicate or triplicate records systems which must be easily accessible at each location.
Wherever the paper comes from, it appears that most companies (and their HR departments in particular) store business and employee documents in both paper and electronic form. So the need for records management has never been greater, and protection for both physical paper and digital data is a part of the complete information lifecycle.
That need has triggered an acquisition spree here in Canada, as records management services providers seek to consolidate their offerings and leverage their experience across the country.
As many as 14 information management companies here have been acquired in past two years by the Access Corporation, described as the world’s largest privately-held records and information management (RIM) services provider.The company HQ is outside of Boston, MA.
In 2019, Access acquired half-a-dozen companies in Canada, expanding its portfolio of information governance and information management products to more than 60 Canadian markets; included in its latest acquisitions are Command Records Management (London, Ontario), Shredder’s, Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Access Records & Media Management (Victoria, British Columbia) and Butler Box & Storage, Inc. (Vancouver, British Columbia).
Potential, says Chad Bevington, Access Executive Vice President for Canada. Not only is information being generated faster than ever, he explained in an e-mail exchange with WhatsYourTech.ca, “The increase in new and frequently changing global, provincial and national regulations (like GDPR, PIPEDA and the Privacy Act) makes information governance solutions and services even more relevant to Canadian businesses.”
There’s a strong international flavour to many Canadian products and services, so Access wants to meet the records management needs of both Canadian businesses that have local and international offices, as well as those U.S.-headquartered companies with Canadian locations.
At the same time, regulations in different industries and different jurisdictions require paper records to be held for a period of time.
What’s more, Bevington underscored, the rapidly expanding regulatory environment and its cross-border dynamic requires an internationally experienced yet uniquely Canadian perspective on records protection.
“Staying compliant with the national Privacy Act and constant change in provincial regulations, just as in the U.S. with rapidly changing state, local and industry regulations, is an enormous challenge for any organization that needs to minimize risk,” he stated.
Among its recent international acquisitions, Access has joined with Information Governance Solutions (IGS) and its Virgo information governance software solution that gives management and control of information retention and governance rules mandated by thousands of different compliance and privacy regulations.
With the increase in new and frequently changing global, provincial, and local retention and privacy regulations, Virgo continuously updates legal research on privacy and information governance requirements and enables quick and accurate creation of global retention policies and schedules.
Bevington also described the Access acquisition of Montaña & Associates, an information governance advisory services firm, and how it added global expertise to how the company manages information for its international clientele.
International data protection is surely a complicated matter, and the global threats to information are tangible (even if they’re often virtual, so to speak).
But Bevington says the biggest risk to physical documentation and paper records is information getting into the wrong hands.
Describing the Access presence in Canada and some core data protections it offers, he confirmed Access has over 30 physical records centres covering some 60 markets in Canada, providing storage, document management software, secure destruction or information governance consulting as needed.
“All of our sites have daily team meetings to keep our team members up to date on any changes and to reinforce security and safety. This is not only for the secure handling of our client’s information, but it’s also to ensures the safety of our employees, equipment, and facilities.”
Every facility has made major investments in security systems such as key card access, CCTV systems, intruder alarm systems and fire detection systems, he itemized, and there are regular safety audits and thorough visitor induction processes at each site. Access fleet vehicles have security locking systems and alarms, and they’re equipped with GPS systems showing their routes and a roadmap system for routing and tracking.
Paper records stored off-site can be accessed at Access in different ways, Bevington described. “We offer an array of services giving our clients rapid access to their paper records including ‘scan-on-demand’, a service that allows us to retrieve records, scan them and send them quickly and securely through our records management portal, FileBRIDGE Records.” If a client needs the physical documents, Access will securely transport them to a desired location.
Just don’t call it a paperless office.