Archiving - the benefits of colonic irrigation
I am happy viewing life through a prism where organisations are natural systems. By this, I mean that the relationships, inputs and outputs of a group of people are no more and no less than some kind of multiple of the range of behaviours and consequences that you could expect when dealing with an individual. In as much as this is true, perhaps I am a simple soul. I have never felt patronised by the Euro debt crisis being explained to me on the basis of an analogy of a family household already spending beyond its means - and in which the breadwinner then loses their job. To me, that just kind of makes sense.
And so it comes to pass, that I view archiving as the organisational equivalent of passing waste through the body and (notwithstanding that wikipedia states there are no proven medical benefits) a review and reorganisation of the archive as a therapeutic process of colonic irrigation.
Taking the analogy further (and, I promise, after this it will go no further), the "health" of your archive is truly the equivalent of a stool analysis with regards the health of an individual. There is nearly nothing you cannot find out about a firm by taking a good look in the basement. Invariably, if there is mismanagement of a particular business discipline evident in the archive and in the archiving process - this will be replicated elsewhere in the practice as well. For example:-
Financial Management - are all the files in the archive billed or is there a goldmine down there? Have their time and account balances been written down to zero? Have the ledgers been closed on the Practice Management system or do you have audit hell twice a year when the accountants are in for SAR and financial accounting purposes?
Procurement - how much are you paying for your archive? Could it be stored more cheaply elsewhere? Is an electronic archive an option (probably not, is regrettably my experience, if the key factor is price - and there is not a high need to recover files routinely). How much are you paying for destroying old records?
Risk Management/Information Management/Data Protection - why, if your client's information is important, is it stored in a location where the paper turns brown within 3 months from damp or where it makes the eyes of a casual arsonist light up with opportunistic delight.
Health & Safety - back to the arsonist!
Facilities Management - why, if you are crying out for more space for interview rooms or fee earners desks, are there 400 boxes of files clogging up two rooms on the second floor?
I promised the analogy would go no further...but suffice to say, it is worth investing some time in examining your archive to guard against the possibility of your business going down the pan.