What are archives?

According to French legislation (79-18, January 3rd, 1979) archives are ” all documents, regardless of their date, form and media created or received by any person or legal entity and by any public or private department or organization in the performance of their activities “. The term also refers to the building where such documents are stored and the department responsible for these documents.

What is this department’s function?

This department is responsible (based on decree 79-1037, dated December 3rd 1979) for control of the following:

  1. the preservation of active records (the documents used daily in departments and agencies).
  2. the preservation of semi-active records (documents that are no longer used frequently, but which must be temporarily preserved). They are generally kept in a location separate from where they were produced (for administrative or legal reasons).
  3. the preservation, appraisal, and arrangement of the inventory and access to definitive archives (documents preserved with no time limit, after an appraisal subsequent to an intermediate age, as a record of the company’s history, for example).

These three steps make up what is known as the archive life cycle.

What are the different types of company records?

There are three types of company records:

1.  Records, which are files and documents with a certain preservation period (for example technical records, supplier invoices etc.)

2.  Archives, which are all documents that have to be permanently preserved. They are not numerous, but they represent the company’s “memory”.

3.  Personnel’s personal data. Personnel’s records have a certain preservation period and should then belong to the first group. However, their confidentiality gives them greater importance and determine their particular preservation conditions.

Why must all of these obsolete documents be preserved?

Firstly, from a historical viewpoint, this tradition of preserving everything is deeply ingrained in France: the first State Archives were created by August Philip to keep track of property deeds and (in particular) taxes (already in use at this time…). France is also famous for its Ecole des Chartes (School of Paleography and Librarianship) which trains the record keepers who primarily manage the departmental and national archives. Their long-lived management traditions have contributed to successful genealogical and historical research.

Secondly, preservation is a legal requirement: in fact, the law requires that documents be archived for rather long “preservation periods ” (ten years, for example), which can be consulted in the CFONB book. Moreover, these time periods assume a special importance in civil law, where written proof is the rule. A bank once lost tens of millions of French francs because it was unable to locate the original surety document for a loan! 

How does computerized archive management improve efficiency?

Above all, computerized archive management allows greater clarity and transparency.

Times have changed since archives looked like a cellar or attic where everything was stored in bulk with no concern for preservation periods. The records were certainly preserved but they could not be retrieved or eliminated!

Today, computerized management allows better document organization and faster retrieval. This reduced waiting time, and the consequent improvement in service quality are of course greatly appreciated by customers.

This also motivates personnel: at one time searching for documents in the archives was almost a punishment. The person who receives a copy of a document by fax a few minutes after their request will certainly value computerized record management.

Over time, centralized requests will reveal operational errors. This is because requests can be analyzed more coherently. Before, an agency would process the same complaint on a specific subject every six months. A department that centralizes these complaints will receive them every week. As a result, the source of the error can be located more efficiently.

Lastly and most importantly, it is clear that the number of document requests is linked with the number of complaints. Consequently, the quantifying of archive searches is comparable to the quantifying of service quality. The search statistics generated by computerized archive management are generally forwarded to higher management. This makes these statistics a quantifiable element of quality. 

When is computerized management an urgent requirement?

The problem becomes obvious in many ways: the work premises are saturated and archive containers arrive in a constant, unending stream. There are not enough qualified personnel to manage an increasingly complex archive system. Customers wait too long for answers and the company’s image suffers from low service quality. Or, after a merger, geographical separation makes it difficult to coordinate archive management. 

Given these problems, why not digitize all documents? Wouldn’t this allow for their immediate destruction and direct access to the desired information?

Digitization is a tempting solution. However, in reality it is only a balance between utopia and nightmare because of the enormous amount of work required. No one can justify the digitization of millions of documents when consultations never exceed 3 for every 1000 preserved documents!

At the same time, courage (but not recklessness) is necessary. After the documents have been digitized, who will take responsibility for their destruction, keeping in mind the above-mentioned legal requirements?

What skills does a company responsible for this computerization need?

It is a truism to declare that a company responsible for computerized archiving must have both archival and computing skills. It must know every aspect of the archive keeper’s trade and have mastered modern computing techniques. They are effectively at the intersection between literature and science.

And Amig has both of these skills?

Yes, we do.

Our team developed the ” first public archive software to appear on the market ” (according to an evaluation study by the independent Van Dijk bureau in August, 1995). Consequently, we have very extensive experience in the archive field.

In terms of IT experience, in 1993 our development team adopted the easy-to-use, attractive Windows platform. The Van Dijk bureau even stated that ” user-friendliness is Ariane’s main strong point “. We were also one of the first companies in France (in all fields) to start using Microsoft Access. Our solutions are fully developed within a Client/Server architecture.

More specifically, can you give us some examples of your work?

So far, numerous companies have trusted their archives and records to AMIG software,  including: PARIS HABITAT OPH, ARCELOR MITTAL, DLA PIPER, ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE, CEMEX, Bank of France, The Department of Customs, Le Crédit Agricole, Paris Airports, SERVIER, Le Crédit Lyonnais : LCL, etc.

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