By: Charmaine Brooks, Certified Records Manager, Partner
There are three typical classification types for business content:
It is a simple process to make things complex, but a complex process to make things simple.
Let’s talk about functional classification in more depth.
Functional Classifications Schemes
Classification of business activities is a powerful tool for the management of records (content) and to understand the relationship between a business and its records. Classifications related to business functions provides a systematic process for records and information management. Developing a functional classification scheme identifies the organization’s activities within the business framework of its mission or purpose – a representation of the organization’s functions, activities and transactions.
Benefits of functional classification schemes include:
Classification schemes provide an organization with a tool to:
Classification schemes promote consistency of filing and facilitate retrieval and use. Classification schemes can be used to support a variety of records management processes in addition to facilitating access and use; for example, storage & protection and retention & disposition. Using a functions based approach for classification recognizes that records are defined by their relationship to the activities they document. This gives content meaning and context.
How powerful can functional classifications be? One of our clients had a subject and location based file plan with 10,000 records series. We moved them to a functional classification of less than 300 record series. As a user would you rather look for retention rules in document with 10,000 entries or 300?
Classification schemes are usually supported by tools such as file plans, thesauri and disposition authorities (record retention plan).
A Thesaurus is a controlled list of terms linked together by hierarchical, associative or equivalence relationships of terms. It is a tool that supports the classification and management of records, usually at the file level to ensure classification terms are used consistently throughout a recordkeeping (filing) system in a specific business context. The terms are structured by the relationships between terms. Examples of relationships include broader term, narrower term, related term, preferred/use and non-preferred/use. Thesauri are generally an alphabetical representation of the classification scheme.
Thesauri based on business functions enable records to be classified according to the context in which they are created and used. In contrast to a subject approach, records are classified according to why they exist rather than what they are about.
Vocabulary controls are developed to meet the complexity of content being managed; they identify organization-specific definitions or usage of terms. Controlled vocabularies provide the ability to cross‑reference terms (such as related terms, synonyms, preferred terms) and identify terms with greater precision. For example, a preferred term of “toilet” would have non-preferred terms of “bathroom”, “head”, “loo”, and “john”. Thesauri are particularly useful to localize languages (e.g. British and American English) and to standardize usages after mergers.
A File Plan is a tool for classifying content to bring together records with common characteristics. The File Plan is derived from a Business Classification Scheme to provide a framework for classifying records according to the business functions and activities which generate them. Often these are developed at the organizational level such as a division or department. The file plan determines how the record/documents are filed and the retention requirements that apply. The two need to be linked at the right level to be able to apply retention.
There are three compelling reasons for having a File Plan.
Steve Krug wrote “Don’t Make Me Think”  as a common sense approach to web usability. When designing your classification structures keep this simple concept in mind. Your end users will thank you!