“Paper consumption is a classic variable for assessing digital transformation in companies,” observed Enrique Dans, Senior Advisor for Digital Transformation at IE University.

However, companies are still producing physical records, and they’re not always paper. Regardless of the medium, they must be destroyed once they have reached the destruction date.

Physical destruction is often treated as a commodity-based portion of the information lifecycle. Or in other words, who will destroy this for me at the lowest cost? The biggest pain points many organizations face are avoidable but are often caused by not having the proper organization on the front end of their destruction program.

This two-part series will consider how best to overcome the challenges of physical destruction in the digital age across two major facets: managing your records inventory and managing your destruction process.

What is Physical Destruction and Why is It Important?

Before we get to what physical destruction is, let’s talk first about what it is not. Physical destruction does not refer to degaussing and erasure technologies used to wipe clean drives and other electronic media.

Physical destruction also doesn’t just refer to shredding paper. If the object is of value and is confidential in nature, like manufacturers’ prototypes, tapes, microfilm, and other kinds of intellectual property, its disposition is just as important as that of a paper document.

At its core, physical destruction is best defined as reducing an asset down to a size that, with reasonable reassurance, said asset cannot be reconstructed. How this is accomplished is dependent on what is being destroyed. Based on destruction obligations, it could mean an item needs to be ground into dust or incinerated.

“It’s 3 AM, do you know where your records are?”

One of the biggest challenges organizations face is having a complete picture of what records they have, where the records are stored, in what medium, as well as any other metadata associated with those records.

The benefits of having a comprehensive inventory cannot be understated. For example, if you know exactly what records are in a particular box you have with your off-site storage vendor, the question of whether or not to destroy it is easy: has it reached its destruction date or not?

Creating an inventory of your records is most certainly easier said than done. Unfortunately, this phase is often costly, time-consuming, and has been put off the longest. Nevertheless, conducting a complete, comprehensive audit of your records will save you time, effort, and money in the long run.

Use this checklist, Best Practices for Governing Information Lifecycle Management, for help getting started on creating a records inventory.

The Importance of a Record Retention Schedule in Secure Disposition

Retention schedules and physical destruction are two sides of the same coin.

In order to destroy something compliantly, you must understand what records are eligible for destruction. When it comes to physical destruction, one of the most common pain points is that nobody wants to sign off and authorize the destruction.

“I’ve seen a lot of hesitation in clients when it comes to physical destruction” Andrew Garner, VP of Shredding at Access observed during a webinar. “This largely comes from a lack of confidence in what you have stored and where. If you’re confident that the material you have is in order, physical destruction is nearly an afterthought.”

As a result, most organizations tend to over-retain information. Creating a retention schedule, with the help of an information governance consultant, is recommended to overcome this issue.


Understanding what records and information you have on hand, where, and how long you need to keep it is a vital part of any records and information management program.

Ensuring efficiency in the disposition part of the information lifecycle also comes down to having an effectively planned process.

Stay tuned for part two of this series where we’ll be talking about how to ensure you’re partnered with the right vendor.

In the meantime, for a quick overview of how this process might look, watch our webinar, Creating a Defensible Disposition, for an in-depth view of a systematic approach to analyzing and assessing records eligible for disposition.

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