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Mining a Company's DNA
by creating "Knowledge Banks"
by Phyllis Barr
Corporate Culture Marketing
by Barr Consulting Services
New York, NY
For further information: see below
The traditional name for what I refer to as a "Knowledge Bank" is "archives." But I prefer "Knowledge Banks" which more fully conveys, I believe, what an archives is and what having one can mean for a company/organization.
Technically, an archives is a repository for documents formerly in just hard copy form, but now also on hard drives, perhaps also on an Intranet and/or on a server, etc. These include legal, real estate, financial, human resources, etc. records as well as photographs and printed matter. Some need to be kept for legal/tax reasons; others to document what a company has done and how it has functioned, etc. There are record copies (originals) information copies, historical records, etc.
It is so much more. It is the repository of a company's/organization's DNA, its corporate culture,  its "who, what, why, where, when and how."  It is a company's/organization's "hiStory" in tangible form and formats.
Some companies/organizations have "Knowledge Banks" and regularly utilize them as a resource in a number of way such as: LEVERAGING THE HISTORY & HERITAGE OF A COMPANY including/and:
1, dealing with legal matters;
2: dealing real estate matters such as a title search;
3. writing a company's history;
4. producing an audio/visual, including  power point presentations;
5.  putting a history component on a website;
6.  curating an exhibit in an office or trade show or for a presentation;
7. and for planning and implementing an anniversary celebration of a company, brand, product or organization.
The history & heritage is a vital part of what a brand or company is and mining its DNA is a valuable branding tool, particularly in hard times!
The questions are: a. whether to establish a "Knowledge Bank"/archives; b. when, c. how and d. what will it take?
People may say, "Well, we have everything on our hard drives and server." First of all, virtually all companies have offices and halls lined with file cabinets taking up space which costs money. Second, bad things happen to hard drives and servers! And, last, will people be able to read what is on hard drive and servers in years to come?
And, of course, scanning takes time and money.
There was a very interesting and informative article in The New York Times on electronic records which I highly recommend reading. It appeared on Saturday, September 13th: "In the Digital Age, Federal Documents Are Blipping Into Oblivion." What it says is relevant to companies and organizations, particularly the sections on the legal aspects of having electronic records available if needed; being able to access them in the future; and the difficulties of searching for records.
Yes, the work is of creating a "Knowledge Bank" is labor intensive, but it can be spread out over several years.
Every moment spent looking for records costs money.
"Knowledge Banks" save time and money.
Two examples: Some years ago, I was asked to assemble some archival records for lawyers who were due to spend several days in the office doing title searches going back over 100 years. They stayed for a half day as the records were there and in order. Many billable hours saved!
Another time when a building was being restored, I was asked to show some records on past restorations to the restorers. The company saved $10,000 because they were there and organized. The records also answered some baffling questions about the condition of the building and past restorations and renovations.
Some companies establish an archives at the time of an anniversary or when having a book written, etc. upon discovering that it was hard to find what was needed. Others do so when a company is relatively young as a matter of course.
What to do/The Plan of Action:
1. If there is no archives, have a Records Manager conduct surveys with each department to see what should be kept for 10 years and permanently;
2.  Determine if the records will be kept on-site or off-site or even deposited with a repository.
There are legal issues here such as ownership and copyright. Lawyers must be consulted.
3. Hire a professionally trained archivist to create a plan of action. Many archivists are also Records Managers.
Some are historians as well which is useful as they can help put the "hiStory" into perspective and tie it in, so to speak, with what was happening when the company/organization was founded and during its life span.
4.  Select a space to house records. This includes doing due diligence re the "state" of the space.
Records need climate control and, if possible, to be in areas without pipes of any kind, and, in an area with fire prevention controls in place and fire suppression systems to deal with a fire if one happens. Protection from theft necessitates security due diligence as well.
5. Establish a system for accessioning records according to archival principles; processing them; and having a guide/finding aid created for both on-line and off. There are archival folders and boxes, etc. that will protect records.
6. Fill in the history gaps in the records by going on-line and to repositories and libraries. Many cannot afford to put their records on-line. Visits are a must.
7. Plan for the future with a Records Management Program which will determine the "life cycle" of records and which will eventually be archives.
8. Create a Contingency Plan to protect the records from manmade and natural disasters and to deal with them if they occur.
I think the best way to decide if it is worth creating a "Knowledge Bank" is to think back about times when you had to do research, find a document, had your hard drive crash, etc. How much time did it take to find what was needed? What did the search keep you or your staff from doing? What condition were the photos, paper records, etc. in when you found them?  Does your company have an upcoming anniversary? Is someone about to write a book? Is the company moving?
In sum, the bottom line is that a "Knowledge Bank" is useful in numerous ways and can  valuable time and money as noted above.
And as I have written before, leveraging history & heritage is a great marketing/fundraising tool. But without the documentation of the past -- the tangible DNA -- it is impossible to tell the "hiStory." And telling stories is a marketing powerful tool!
Until next week when the subject is Oral History interviews: Filling in the gaps in the written records.
Phyllis Barr, President
Corporate Culture Marketing by
Barr Consulting Services
& The Corporate Acculturation Management Practice
Phone: 212-765-6968
Corporate Culture Marketing assists
companies with leveraging the history
and heritage of a company, brand or
not-for-profit as a marketing or fundraising tool.
It specializes in leveraging anniversary
celebrations as a marketing or fundraising tool.
Services: Consulting; Research; Editing;
Writing: Curating; Creating Knowledge
Banks;  Conducting Oral History interviews; Assisting
companies with corporate culture clash after
a merger.

Rangsiroj Rangsiroj Says:
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:20 PM
Chad, great point. Frankly I don't know if I have the courage to do this yet but I need to. I have found that with mylsef and with most of the consultants I meet hiding is much more prevalent than doing. Hiding comes in so many forms and appears to be less risky. But we know it isn't really less risky is just a slow death. “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”~Teddy Roosevelt

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