Are You Making These 3 Big Records Management Mistakes?

Do you have Records Management responsibilities within your organisation? Are you making these 3 big records management mistakes?

I’ve seen these mistakes occur within various organisations a number of times, and they always lead to BIG problems for the customer. They eventually end up bemused, annoyed, and sometime angry at the entire experience.

These mistakes are usually symptomatic of a basic lack of understanding of, and experience with the requirements for designing and implementing any Records Management system project or program.

In reverse order:


Agree a file plan as the first deliverable.

This can be an awkward one. The customer demands a file plan, so you agree. You take a copy of Keyword AAA and insert a few functions here, and some activities there… You end up with a large chunk of paper with (potentially) thousands of meaningless function and activity permutations to deliver to the eager customer.

And their next question is… OK, what now?

The customer is now in the position to map this imposing file plan to their mountain of records awaiting classification and management. Now your in the embarrassing position of doing what should have been done well before any file plan was conceived.

You’ll hear your customer asking such questions as…

  • How can I categorize to this plan?
  • What are the transactions? (What’s a transaction anyway?)
  • How will I classify electronic documents – is it the same process as paper?
  • Etc…
  • BIG MISTAKE # 2:

    Not developing a Business Classification Scheme.

    In real estate location-location-location is the mantra. In function-activity-transaction (FAT) based records management, the watchword is context-context-context. The only way to pin your records to their relevant activity (i.e. context) is to devise a Business Classification Scheme, (BCS).

    If you cannot manage your records in the context within which they were created or captured, you will unfortunately end up with a complicated classification system that will never meet the needs of your organisation or system users, let alone comply with ISO standards.

    The Business Classification Scheme shows the 'business' your organisation engages in (the WHAT), and the activities you and your colleagues perform (the HOW).

    The BCS should not be an extraordinarily detailed diagram straddling page after page. In actual fact, the simpler the better, as it will be more useful to the end-user(s).

    You know you’ve designed a first-rate BCS when your customer says something like:

  • Neat!
  • This is cool!
  • How did we manage before?
  • when you show the Business Classification Scheme to them.

    Permit yourself a wry smile when you hear this, as you can rest assured it’s pretty much down hill from here.

    From my experience, I’ve found the BCS is probably the most important element to the success of a project. Without a good quality, user-friendly BCS, the project will be difficult and most likely only succeed by divine intervention!

    BIG MISTAKE # 1:

    Not using actual business processes to develop your Business Classification Scheme.

    What a worse scenario than not having a BCS? Having a BCS that wasn’t developed based on actual business activity. How can you model your organisations business processes without visiting and interviewing the individuals who perform them and seeing if the system(s) actually work?, you can’t, obviously.

    A BCS could be viewed as the lynch-pin of a Records Management project. It is the only thing that will allow you to match records with activities. Using anything but real, live business activities to build your BCS is precarious, fool hardy, and possibly downright dangerous. It shows a total lack of understanding on the part of the project analysts, and whoever is leading the project.

    Acts, legislations, mission statements, rules and regulations, are all extremely useful in helping to understand the parameters and boundaries of the project, but you will not find any of the fundamental business activities there!

    In conclusion

    So, if you are making these 3 big records management mistakes and looking to implement a function-activity-transaction based records management project, you need a BCS.

    You need a good BCS developed from actual documented activities.

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