The Globalization of Records Management Programs in Multinational Corporations

Article excerpt

This article addresses a subject never before considered in the professional literature of records management: the globalization of records management programs in multinational business corporations. We will consider the forces driving and retarding the globalization of records management programs in these types of companies during the 1990s, as well as a number of records management issues relevant to the nature and character of records management programs of worldwide coverage. We will also consider various strategies which may be effective in developing and implementing these programs. Our central objective will be to provide records managers of multinational corporations with some guidelines that should prove useful in extending the scope of their programs to their company's business operations throughout the world.

MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS: A GENERAL DISCUSSION

A multinational corporation is one which does a substantial portion of its business in countries other than its home country. A "substantial portion of business" is usually defined to mean that the business derives substantial revenues and profits and has substantial facilities and other assets located in countries other than its home country. To qualify as a "true multinational," at least 25% of the organization's business must come from abroad. Most large multinational companies do anywhere from 25% to 75% of their business outside their home country. Certain types of businesses have traditionally extended themselves to many countries: petroleum firms, motor vehicle manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms, computer companies, communications companies, some food and beverage/consumer products companies, and certain kinds of financial services firms often operate in many countries.

During the 1990s the trend towards globalization of business is expected to accelerate, and the number and size of multinational companies are expected to grow for a variety of reasons. First, the world is witnessing greater economic integration due to free trade agreements in Europe and possibly in North America. This is coupled by the emergence of new market-oriented economic systems in Eastern Europe, Russia, and a number of other Asian and Latin American nations. Secondly, businesses in the advanced industrial countries are faced with saturated, mature markets in their home countries and must pursue opportunities for growth abroad. Finally, businesses in the advanced industrial countries are burdened with very high labor/production costs, and must seek cheaper sources of production in developing countries in order to remain competitive in the global economy.

What are the implications of this increasing business globalization for records management? How must multinational businesses adjust their administrative and information management systems (including their recordkeeping systems) to enable the business to operate successfully throughout the world? This article examines these issues.

THE IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION TO THE SUCCESS OF MULTINATIONAL BUSINESSES

Mr. Don Keough, the recently retired President of the Coca-Cola Company (a company which does 60% of its business outside of the U.S.), had this to say about the importance of information to the success of a multinational business: "In this day and age, he who has the information fastest and uses it wins. And this company has the fastest information flow of any global company in the world." Mr. Keough's assertion raises the issue of the relationship between paper-based and electronic information systems in multinational companies, the need for worldwide compatibility and standardization among these systems, and the role that records management can and should play in their development.

THE STATUS OF GLOBALIZED RECORDS MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

Despite the fact that the United States has more large multinational companies than any other country and that this country has the world's largest and perhaps most advanced records management community, efforts to globalize records management programs in U. …