Reclaim your space

The final blog in our series about reducing paper mountains, you need to ask yourself, how can you prevent these paper mountains from happening again? There’s no point scaling Everest if you have to mount another expedition in a few years time.

Here are some tips we’ve gathered from agencies who have already successfully scaled their paper mountains.

Make recordkeeping visible in your agency

  • Add records to the agency risk registers – Records are assets and need to be valued in the same way as other assets. This will allow you to know where your vital and high-value records are.
  • Undertake regular records audits – Recordkeeping is a fundamental activity of all agencies and the foundation of an accountable government. Regular audits will allow agencies to look at processes to determine if they are still fit for purpose or need improvement.
  • Have a central point of contact for offsite storage providers – If the agency has multiple accounts, centralise into one area and either cut down on the number of accounts or merge together into one account. This will help keep an eye on the costs of storage and use this information if considering another provider. You want to make sure that you’re not paying for boxes of coat hangers out at offsite storage!
  • Have business areas take responsibility for approving the payment of storage costs – This will make business areas aware of how much is being spent on storage for their records and may have them carefully consider what they are sending to offsite storage.

Digital processes

  • Focus on the processes that create a lot of paper and see if they can become fully digital – your agency might still ask applicants to print off forms and send them in instead of doing it all digitally.       Working with a business analyst will help you document the process and how it could be streamlined and automated. Workflow within your eDRMS may be able to support you to do this.
  • Embed recordkeeping into business systems – this could help streamline business practices and implement electronic workflows and approvals. Also try and embed records management into business KPIs and reporting. Consider recordkeeping requirements as part of new system designs.

Check out the website for our Strategic Recordkeeping – Technology advice.

  • Where possible, sentence records at time of creation – sentencing on creation will allow your agency to treat the records according to their value and to make sure that they are preserved and managed for as long as they are required.


  • Look at current disposal processes – What activities are currently being undertaken? Who participates in each step of the process? Does the process comply with Information Standard (IS)31 and Public Records Act 2002? Has the correct retention and disposal schedule been used to sentence records? How is the preservation of permanent and long-term temporary records assured?
  • Introduce a regular disposal program – Establishing a structured and regular disposal programme will:
    • make more efficient use of resources, reducing storage and maintenance costs
    • ensure those records that need to be kept are kept for the correct period of time
    • responding to Right to Information (RTI) requests, subpoenas, discovery orders etc. to reduce risk and assists with legislative compliance
    • identify permanent records which can be transferred to QSA.

Do you have any other tips? Have you had any success in using any of these strategies to reduce your paper mountain? Have you had epic failures when trying to reduce a paper mountain?

In the future we will be bringing you some case studies about agencies that have already scaled a paper mountain. Do you have a case study that you want to share on how you have reduced your paper mountains? Do you have any other helpful tips that could help other agencies? Share your stories here.

Remember, you can contact us at any time via email, telephone, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Flickr.

Featured image: Records room-Executive Building, Brisbane July 1965, Digital image ID 21920

Last updated 10 February 2020

4 thoughts on “Reclaim your space

Add yours

    We would suggest that central oversight of off-site storage accounts is a good idea and we check invoices for all 6 agencies we service as well as ensuring that everything is registered before going off-site and that all mark-ups are done in our eDRMS.
    However, we would not recommend combining accounts as our storage accounts need to be as portable as possible when M-o-G changes occur. We have one account for each agency and several sub-accounts. Each of our business units has their own sub-account that they are financially responsible for and if they switch agencies, their account simply transfers with them.
    When we have disposal exercises, we deal with the account owners who know their records and they assist us through the disposal authorisation process to ensure they are not paying for storage of time-expired records.
    It took us 18 months to get this centrally run, user pays model up and working, but it works and we have reduced costs considerably for all agencies, have disposed of more records and transferred more to QSA since it has been in place.

    1. Hi Cathy, Thanks for your feedback. It’s great to hear how one of the bigger agencies is doing things. Other agencies could think about doing something similar.

  2. Hi QSA!

    Completely agree there is so much potential to reduce paper mountains (or digital document mountains for that matter) by taking processes digital.

    One of my main observations in this area, which extends on your comments under the digital heading, is that perhaps the proverbial elephant in the room (so to speak), is that we need to go right back to the start and put a relentless focus on creating information efficiently in the first place, keeping the mountain under control before it grows! This of course is a fairly classic RM value proposition, although arguably the digital era provides us with the opportunity to take the efficiencies to a new level.

    By way of example, a discussion within our team relatively recently led to us running some numbers with a fairly straight-forward scenario involving time sheets. What we found for space consumption over the 7 year retention period for a timesheet, based on 6000 staff completing a timesheet each fortnight was:

    Essentially paper …. Print, Sign, Scan: 520gb for 7 years of timesheets
    Traditional digital …. Save spreadsheet only: 83gb for 7 years of timesheets [<eDRMS benefit stops here]
    True digital ………….. Data in a database: 406mb for 7 years worth of timesheets. Assuming that 4 time readings are recorded a day and everything else time related is calculated via query.

    There are many ways one can look at these numbers to draw conclusions. Costing the storage is interesting, although getting definitive numbers on those costs can be difficult. For example, database storage often costs more than file-share storage. There is also the issue that there are costs with establishing a data driven system for time management, or extending the functionality of existing systems to deal with whatever the impediment is that results in manual timesheets still be used, that need to be weighed against the benefit being delivered.

    What this does highlight though is the sheer efficiency, at least from a space perspective that can be gained from focusing on information efficiency up front and going truly digital. The numbers become even more substantial when multiplied over the number of enterprise processes that result in information being generated via in paper like digital formats.

    The efficiency arguably reduces the need to focus so extensively on disposal as when our data is neatly organized it takes up minimal space anyway and it's known contents and location reduce risk. Given it is so well organized it could lend itself to other useful data analysis applications, perhaps even creating an argument to hang onto some information for longer given the minimal costs to do so.

    On this note, in the book 'Information Driven Business' Robert Hillard undertakes some analysis of enterprise processes and using various formulas and going through some mathematics comes up with the claim that in 10tb of data only some 625mb of that is often unique and useful. He then goes on to claim that only a fraction of that again is actually used in decision making processes.

    While those figures are perhaps debatable, even confronting, it does provide food for thought on the benefits of pursuing information efficiency and further to the formats we should be trying to get our information into in the future. Our discussion reflected that business systems are probably best placed at driving this kind of efficiency.

    1. Hi Nick, thanks for your feedback. During the research for GRDSv8, we estimated that all of the timesheets for Qld public service employees would take up approx. 1292 shelves (as at March 2014). That is one massive mountain to scale!!

Leave a Reply to Nick Cancel reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: