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Subject: Re: Classification Schemes
From: Gerry van Houten <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 10 Mar 2005 09:01:44 -0500

text/plain (138 lines)

I agree with Elizabeth. She has summarized the concept of function, and why
a functions-based classification system is better than other systems, very
nicely and very succinctly. At the Archives of Ontario (which advises the
Government of Ontario on records management issues as well as providing
archival services), we have undertaken the very laborious task of defining
the three highest levels of functions in the Government of Ontario --
ministry (= department in many places), program (i.e., a group of broadly
related services) and service.

There are a number of advantages to a functions-based system. The following
immediately come to mind but there are others.

1. Records organized by functions are less likely to be subject to the
vagaries of politics provided that the nomenclatures for the functions are
developed to reflect the function -- not the formal name of the
organization. For example, under the previous provincial government, there
was an organization called SuperBuild that reported to the Ministry of
Finance. When the present government came to power, it became a full-fledged
independent ministry called the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal.
Because this function develops policies and programs for the development of
public infrastructures, our working nomenclature is "public

2. A functional approach takes into account the sharing of programs and
services by more than one organization. There are several programs and
services in the Government of Ontario that are shared between ministries and
between different organizations within ministeries. When the present
government came to power it split the Ministry of Community, Family and
Children's Services into two ministries, one for children'services and one
for community and social services. I'm sure everyone out there in the
records management universe realizes that there must be community and social
services that are geared toward children. So it comes as no surprise that
these two ministries share a number of services. Another example is a
service called "nutrient management" that is shared by the Ministry of
Agriculture and Food and the Minstry of the Environment.

3. As Elizabeth quite rightly points out, organizing records around a
business process independently of its place in the organization's formal
structure facilitates the movement of the function's records within the
recorkeeping system when organizational change takes place.

We can't do much about what the politicians decide to do with or to their
public service but we can strive to make the public service's recordkeeping
systems as flexible and as adaptable as possible to the changing political
landscape while maintaining the system's relative stability. Change is
inevitable but change around a functions-based classification scheme is, in
my mind, much more manageable.

The really tough part for us will be to persuade the public service to
change over to a functions-based system. This will be a very difficult task
because we are faced with a decades-old habit of recordkeeping based along
organizational lines.

-----Original Message-----
From: Laiche, Elizabeth [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: March 9, 2005 11:38 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Classification Schemes

As this topic is near and dear to my heart, here's my two cents worth...

We use the concept functions as the basis for our document/records
operations and all electronic file plans, and have defined it as such:

A "function" is a business process that is independent of the
organization's departmental structures; a "function" can be moved from
one department to another without changing the basic process (start/end
points, work flow, documents needed to perform the actions associated
with the function, and the end result of the process).

Our company's "records management function" is a good example of this
definition.  In the last 5 years, this "function" has been placed under
three different departments and departmental names, all of which were
under three different directorates.  Regardless of where it was moved,
the business process of managing records continued to operate exactly
the same.  The same sub-functional processes--records inventory and
disposition, records storage, record retrieval, records destruction, and
records disaster recovery--applied, regardless of where the main RM
function was relocated.  The same drivers applied (most DOE directives
regarding federal records). These sub-processes were carried out using
the same forms and procedures.  The only thing that changed was the name
of the department, and the directorate to which the oversight
responsibility of records management was transferred during the

-----Original Message-----
From: Records Management Program [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of Chris Campbell
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 5:45 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Classification Schemes

A problem with the word function is the lack of a definition. The
international Records Management Standard (15489) suggests
classification schemes should be made up as follows:

'Classification schemes may be derived from analysis of business
processes to ensure that the records and their metadata descriptions
accurately represent the business processes that created them.

The structure of a classification system is usually hierarchic and
reflects the analytical process as follows:

a) The first level usually reflects the business function.

b) The second level is based on the activities constituting the function

c) The third and subsequent levels are further refinements of the

(pt2, p9)

But the standard does not explain what a function is.

A simple definition I like is one given by an early writer on business
analysis by function and activity, James Martin. He defined a function
as a task that the organisation must accomplish. This sets a limit on
the number of functions there should be in a classification scheme for a
particular business. If a term doesn't stand for a task of the business
then it doesn't have a place in the list of functions. The term may
stand for the subject of a particular document held by the business but
that doesn't qualify it to be a function.

Chris Campbell
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