E-Commerce Times Talkback
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The IT industry purely loves digital information and with good reason. Creating, storing and archiving documents consisting of 1's and 0's provides the foundation for thousands of business computing solutions and billions of dollars in annual sales. While the gospel of the "all-digital enterprise" inspires many proselytizers and true believers, companies in the real world tend to utilize both digital and physical documents and records. However, that process can result in an uneasy balancing act with sometimes serious repercussions.
For certain situations, I'm sure the advice given could be totally accurate and have merit, but unfortunately, PG&E's case is NOT the "Poster Child" some might think it is for 'scan everything'.
The breakdown here and inability to locate information wasn't due to things not being scanned and put into a digital image haystack. It was due to a failure to maintain a solid, well established, physical records system following multiple reorganizations and a loss of business practice knowledge and continuity.
As in many cases, some records do not merit the cost and effort required to prepare for processing and imaging due to a number of factors. These include usage patterns, frequency of access, criticality of remote access, the potential need for multiple users to access content simultaneously, all of which factor into a cost/benefit analysis of determining if a system is an appropriate candidate for image conversion.
The images in the news of pallets of records boxes and lines of staff filtering into the Cow Palace for the effort to search through the reported millions of records was more sensationalism than anything else. The records shown were NOT all records related to transmission pipelines, in fact, there wasn't sufficient effort put into labeling and indexing the records to know WHAT THEY WERE related to, which is why they ALL had to be searched to rule in/rule out their need.
I'm unwilling to go into detail about the manner in which the records were maintained prior to 1983, or the intense effort put forth between 1983 and 1993 to develop detailed computerized indexing and cross reference systems. These were designed to support a triple redundant, physical format transmission pipeline and storage system records reference library, including microfilm of all drawings dating back to 1910.
Had this been maintained, there would be no need to suggest a 'scan everything' option as the best way to maintain information, especially given the initial capture costs and ongoing costs to support hardware, storage, communications systems, applications, backups, staff training and management costs. It also provides no benefit in the event of a loss of power, because organizations only support vital records during power and systems failures, not normal operational records.