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BY ANDY SAUNDERS

In previous articles, we have discussed the complexities of putting the right document production facilities in place. Hard copy documents from Multi-Functional Devices (“MFDs”) are  cheaper and more efficient to run than a fleet of desktop printers and copiers plus scanners.

Companies have used Auditel to help them procure well priced MFD fleets with advantageous terms and normally with savings over their previous contracts of between 12-20%. Like utility  savings, this has been a very successful part of Auditel’s suite of services for many years. Then Covid came along. Printing and Copying was down by over 80% during the pandemic, and devices went unused in many corporate buildings for months on end. Auditel have spent the last 12 months helping clients restructure their contracts to enable Value For Money to be  obtained from the fleets and underutilised machines.

Covid accelerated the speed of change in the office environment quicker than at any time since the introduction of the personal computer. The “Agile Worker” was born and working from  home (“WFH”) became the norm. But Agile Workers still need access to data, documents and the knowledge contained within them, even when they aren’t in the office. Each UK worker has  an average of 6 linear metres of document in hard copy stored at the office. Based on average print usage in the UK, even after Covid, each employee is still generating an additional 30kg of  printed matter every year. This paper needs to be printed, consumed, and then stored and destroyed. Printed matter is reducing and more documents are being consumed in digital format,  without ever making it to paper. However, vast quantities of paper still exist in all organisations and there is the dilemma… what do you do with the paper once it is produced?

Companies should have an internally published Document Retention & Disposal Policy. This is used to guide the employees in what they should do with documents when they have been  used. There are laws and rules governing what should be saved, what can be scanned and digitised and what can be destroyed. Depending on what the nature of your business is will determine how robust and detailed your Information Management will need to be. Document heavy businesses like lawyers and regulators will have greater volumes than restaurant chains  and retail, but they all have to deal with documentation.

In recent work with a law firm, we looked at their Retention and Disposal Policy and the contracts that supported them in this. They had multiple suppliers of services from scanner  suppliers; to digitisation partners; internal print room competing for scanning work; document shredding contract; archiving suppliers and no catalogue of how long documents should be stored for. We found over 100,000 archive boxes in storage and when we had a sample batch of boxes returned we found 2 boxes of Christmas decorations that had been in storage for 12 years…

This represents Document Retention Policy issues and definitely not good Value For Money. They have now introduced a digitisation programme, that will reduce the storage boxes to less than 2% of the current quantity over a 4 year period. The savings aren’t immediate but after the 4 years, essential data will have been scanned and the knowledge captured. That will lead  onto greater control in the future and associated savings with way less in storage.

At another client in the Retail sector, we worked with them on implementing an invoice scanning and automation process. This utilised intelligent software and the MFD devices that they
already had to scan the essential data from their incoming invoices into their accounting software with minimal supervision and oversight. They had a warehouse full of hard copy invoices  that they had to legally keep but that would now be digitised and no longer take up that storage space.

However, the main benefit was that this freed up 60% of the Invoice Processing staff and they were able to start the ball rolling on the Import Documentation that had increased since Brexit and was taking up 3 warehouses.

THE MESSAGES ARE CLEAR:

  • Legislation clearly states companies must keep data and documents safe
  • Companies still produce and receive a vast amount of printed matter
  • Costs of producing the print are only the start
  • Storing, destroying and digitisation need to be considered
  • Without a corporate Document Retention & Destruction Policy businesses will have waste
  • Regulations are in place now and the penalties for noncompliance aren’t just fines

WHAT ACTIONS SHOULD COMPANIES TAKE NOW?
Every company in the UK has to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ ICO”) which is the UK’s independent body that upholds information rights and data privacy. The companies pays a fee to be registered. The ICO states that all UK organisations will have an Information Office that is responsible for Data Protection and ICO registration and it is this  persons corporate responsibility for the Information Management Policy of the company. That is, a general overview of the approach to records management being outlined in your Information Management Policy. Part of the Information Management Policy will include a section which is the Retention and Disposal Policy, the purpose of which is to outline the  company’s approach to managing the retention and secure disposal of your information in line with our business requirements and legal obligations.

SUMMARY
Your organisation has documents that it needs to manage once they have been produced or received. These documents should be classified into categories and have a set of criteria applied to them so that a business knows how long they need to be kept, what format they can be kept in, and when they can be destroyed. If you don’t think you have a Retention and Disposal  Policy within your company, then we are happy to help you start out on the journey. The journey will set out a framework for your document storage and retrieval that will save your business money and manage the carbon being used in the document management process. It isn’t all about saving trees and not using paper, but minimising the impact of the documents  that we use to run our companies on both the carbon footprint and the financial budget.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
There are various pieces of legislation which outline retention requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Freedom of Information Act 2000 – including the Code of Practice Section 46 (FOIA)
  • The UK General Data Protection Regulations (the UK GDPR)
  • Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 18)
  • Public Records Act 1958
  • Limitation Act 1980
  • Inquiries Act 2005

The requirements for a robust Retention & Disposal Policy should be developed to provide a consistent approach to the retention and disposal of corporate information. This policy applies to all physical and digital information, regardless of storage location.

SOURCES OF DATA:
Gartner: Document Management Study 2021
National Data Claims: 2020
ICO: Website Information 2023