Dear Listserv

I work in a very large, complex organization and, when I originally set up my new records and information system, I used both retention codes and then record classifications for specific record series.  I chose this approach because my organization has very long retention periods for many of its records and, over time, metadata and retention requirements are likely to change.  I needed to be able to slice down through the data and keep it roped together over time, so the classification code serves as a "genetic marker" over why the record and its associated metadata was created and will give our future information manager a means to treat a particular series of records in some unique fashion due to changing regulatory reasons or legal requirements.

It has been proposed that we adopt more of a "big bucket" approach.  For example, lets say that we decide to classify income tax records.  In a big bucket approach, the same code is applied to international, federal, state, county, local, and occupational privilege tax.  In a record classification approach, I would have created a record series code for each of the different income tax records and then created folders so that each classification in "inherited" when the record is dropped into the folder.

The argument for going "big bucket" is that the classifications are a lot of work and that we can use the meta data to further segregate the records within the big bucket.  The argument against is that a complex organization with many long term records requirements is likely to experience a large shift in metadata over time and this means having to "normalize" all of the data over and over each time it happens.  A record series code offers unique granularity that allows segregation of  "slices" of information within the record retention code bucket.  

I am looking for feedback on "big bucket" approaches, transitions, and challenges...good or bad.

Angela Fares

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