Following the Phoenicians: RIM in a Globalized Future: It Is No Longer Possible for Records Managers to Have Only a Domestic View of Business. Today, Integrating and Globalizing RIM Initiatives Is Vital in Supporting Most Organizations

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At the Core

This article

* examines globalization and its impact on businesses

* discusses multinational and global companies and how globalization affects records managers

* explains how records managers can survive in a globalized world

A NEW PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGE TO THE RECORDS and information management (RIM) function is to bring value to business strategies focused on globalization and internationalization. While international business has been around for some time, globalization has become a business imperative--one greatly facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICT). What do these developments mean for the records manager, who now, in order to be effective, must make sense of foreign legal and social systems, different languages, and culturally distinctive ways of doing business?

ANTECEDENT AND CONTEMPORARY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTS

In Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, Roland Robertson distinguishes several phases in the history of globalization, from the beginning of the 15th century to the 1990s, starting with cross-border trade and encompassing the development of nationalism, international trade agreements, international legislation, improved telecommunications, and the consolidation of global media and markets. While international trade has thrived for centuries--the Phoenicians, the Silk Road, and the British Empire, for example--considerable attention has been paid in recent decades to the ways in which such business is conducted.

C. Taylor and G.D. Fosler's "The Necessity of Being Global," a 1994 survey of 1,250 American manufacturers, reveals that companies with global activities grew faster in every industry and in all size categories than those without activity beyond their borders. There is a realization in the present environment that every enterprise is globally competitive and must have an international perspective in order to secure long-term survival and growth.

There are several ways in which businesses act globally, from offering products and services for sale internationally and producing materials offshore to merely being aware of competitive global activity. There is increasing pressure to look beyond domestic suppliers and markets--and even labor--and become responsive to what is available in other countries so that products and services can be produced more inexpensively and sold more profitably. Increasingly, companies are transforming themselves into stateless, transnational enterprises. Such companies locate raw materials, labor, and manufacturing offshore as well as invest in foreign markets.

In the case of the Phoenicians, goods bought in one place were sold in another place at a higher price, the only value-added component being their transportation. In the British Empire, raw goods such as rubber or coffee usually were bought in remote parts with value-added processes taking place in the "home" country, where raw materials were manufactured into products and then sold both at home and abroad. These models are more international than global.

Such models of international trading have now become more complex. Raw goods might be supplied by one country, manufactured in a second, sold in a third--and all these processes can be managed from the company's headquarters based in yet another country. In this way, companies find that they can gain competitive advantage by keeping down manufacturing costs and by increasing sales (and profits) of products in different markets. Robertson criticizes the term "internationalization" as insufficient for describing today's business trends because it describes interactions between only a few nations.

"Globalization," however, describes inclusive, transnational processes that take place--completely or partially--outside the control of the individual nations, such as through multinational companies (MNCs). It implies seeing the world as a global marketplace--and also as a global source of staff, capital, labor, and raw materials. …