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AGS Records Management

Physical or digital records management: how to choose?

Keeping your documents in paper format or opting for digitisation is a choice that many companies
must make before entrusting their documents to a specialised company.
But the choice can be less radical: opting for a mixed solution.

Posted in: Records Management
Published Date: 13 July 2021

The economic stakes and the complexity of information circuits force companies to adopt rigorous document management to ensure both the traceability of their documents and their security. Indeed, the law requires companies to keep several types of documents for several decades.

Although the question of choice did not arise until 2000 – since all companies physically preserved their documents – digitisation added to the debate when, in March 2000, electronic writing was legally recognised as evidence in the same way as paper writing. Since digital documents now have the same value as their hardcopy equivalents, digital records management is now competing with physical records management.


“Do not pit physical and digital archiving against each other.”

Developing a document strategy and policy is becoming a real challenge for many companies. How do you choose between physically or digitally managing your documents? This is an important issue, and choosing the right solution is essential. The support of document management specialists like AGS allows companies to define a coherent and tailor-made strategy that addresses their unique challenges.

And the answer to this question varies from company to company. It is important not to pit physical records management against digital records management,” says Samuel Mergui, General Manager of the AGS Records Management Division. “Both solutions are effective, depending on the client’s needs. And in this respect, it is better to opt for a case-by-case approach.”


Four criteria to take into account

When considering the implementation of a records management policy, the client company should focus on four fundamental criteria. The first is the nature of the document: is it a medical file, a supplier invoice or an employee pay slip? Depending on the type of document, the company may or may not have to take the document out frequently to consult it.

The second criterion is the information that will need to be retrieved. For example, in a credit file, almost all documents do not have to be consulted frequently. What is the point of digitising all the documents?

In the same vein, the company must consider the path that the document will follow when it is retrieved from the archives. Will it pass through several pairs of hands? Will it need to be consulted by several people at the same time, as may be the case with sales staff? In this case, a digital version seems more appropriate.

Finally, it is in the client’s interest to know why they want to computerise some or all of their archives. “A company that wants to manage customer relations in a reactive and efficient manner, such as telecommunications or insurance companies, has every interest in opting for a digital version to improve its information management,” emphasises Samuel Mergui.


Refocusing on the core business

Digital archiving must above all make it possible to improve the speed, traceability and visibility of certain types of document processing. The company then loses no time in filing, archiving and searching for documents and can refocus on its core business.

This time saving is particularly noticeable for certain types of documents that lend themselves more readily to digitisation, such as credit files, mutual or provident insurance files or documents with a high transmission flow (expense reports, etc.). Rather than retrieving the physical record when the company needs it, the digitised version is there.

The French administration has understood this and has developed a digital system called “Chorus” to oblige all its suppliers to stop sending paper invoices as of 1 January 2020. The system is an opportunity for traceability, visibility and acceleration of invoice processing, but also a guarantee of security.


A hybrid solution to conserve institutional memory

While digital technology is part of the modern world, paper has been preserving institutional memory or written documents for hundreds of years.  Some companies need to be reactive and to have all the necessary data at hand as quickly as possible, such as telecommunications operators or institutions like the French energy provider EDF. But other documents, such as decades of employee pay slips, employment contracts or even the strategic company documents that cover period after period, are essential to the life of the company and its history.  “Every entrepreneur must act like a good father and respect the precautionary principle,” advises Samuel Mergui.

As a result, at least 70% of companies opt to digitise certain documents, but at the same time keep a paper version. This results in a global strategy that brings real added value to the company, supported by an efficient records management policy. The risks of loss or deterioration are reduced, and documents are kept securely for the entire duration of their lifespan.

“This hybrid solution is an optimal solution in many cases,” emphasises Samuel Mergui. “Because the wealth of tomorrow is derived from being able to transmit our memory, and it is not to be found in the cloud. It’s a real question of balance.”

If you have any questions, we are here to answer them and assist you. Our archivists are at your disposal.