One of the biggest challenges for new Records Managers is understanding how to properly categorize or classify their enterprise records. More often than not, Records Managers start from scratch and reinvent the wheel. Or, they define categories in a way that do not clearly align with the names and meanings other Data, Information, and Knowledge Management professionals work with, creating conflicts of understanding in the work place.
A Baseline for Record Categories
If you’re enterprise doesn’t already have an RM program, you can find a list of basic Record Categories (a.k.a. Record Types) in the IF4IT Taxonomy of Record Types.
The benefits of using such a baseline include…
- You will be able to use each Record Category as a pointer to the full set of individual Record Instances, just like a Library Index,
- You will be using Record Categories that align with those categories used by other companies, and
- You will be using Record Categories that align with the data and information categories used by data, information and knowledge management professionals in your own enterprise.
The more alignment you have between and across domains (intra-enterprise domains and inter-enterprise domains) the easier and less expensive your own RM work will become.
Collecting Information About Each Record Category
Once you’ve established the record Categories that are important to you and your enterprise, you will want to collect key data and information about each category. The The IF4IT Records Management Control Grid is a great resource for understanding what attributes you can start with and should move toward, for greater RM maturity. This downloadable template can also help you with RM Command, Control, and Communications, as it will help you establish who will own records, where they’re located, how to access them, etc.
Industry-Based Customization of Record Categories
The IF4IT Taxonomy of Record Types, mentioned above, is not meant to be an exhaustive list of categories, as it does not take into account industry-specific Record Categories. For this reason, you may have to customize the list to include categories that align with your own industry. For example: Medical Records for the medical industry, Clinical Records for the pharmaceutical industry, Investment Records for the financial investment industry, etc.
The IF4IT believes that starting with a common foundational list and customizing is always easier than starting from scratch, for everything.
Subcategories for Electronic Digital Records vs. Physical Records
Once you have all your primary Record Categories, you may want to break each category into at least two sub-categories that represent:
- Electronic Digital Records, and
- Physical Records
Electronic Digital Records are those records that can be stored on digital storage media (e.g. Disk Drives, Magnetic Tapes, etc.). Examples include but are not limited to Data Records in applications and databases, electronic documents, videos, etc.
Physical Records are those records that take up physical space. Examples include but are not limited to entire Disk Drives, Paper Records, and any other physical item that can be considered evidence.
It is very important to understand that Electronic Digital Records are stored on devices that may be considered Physical Records. So, if you must treat the storage devices as Records, be sure to account for them in your RM management and governance processes.
NOTE: Depending on your industry and needs, you may need to further classify your Record Types.
Record Categories Should Act As Catalogs and Indices to Record Instances
Once you’ve established your different Record Categories, you can use them as pointers to relevant sets of Record Instances, just like Catalogs and Indices in libraries. Catalogs can point to all relevant Indices for that Record Category and Indices can pull up relevant subsets for that category. For example, the category Customer Account Records can act as a Catalog that leads to all Indices which further allow you to access and retrieve all Sales Account Records in any order or subset that you care about (e.g. Individual Customers by Region, Corporate Customers by Industry, or All Customers Alphabetically).
Prioritization of Record Types
Not all Record Types will have the same priority for every enterprise. The industry you work in will drive priorities. For example, if you’re in the medical industry, Medical Records might take precedence. If you’re in the Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical Trial Records may take precedence. If you’re in the financial investment industry, Investment Records may take precedence. Work with your Records Management stakeholders to determine priority.
- The Records Management Control Grid (for RM Command, Control and Communications)
- IF4IT Taxonomy of Record Types
- The IF4IT Records Management Framework: A tool for consistent Records Management vernacular, roles and responsibilities, structures, and other high level RM best practice topics.
- Automated Content Curation For Better Knowledge Management
Request Further Assistance
If you’d like more information about or assistance with identifying and establishing process for Record Types, feel free to Contact Us and we’ll do what we can to facilitate. If we don’t have the answers, we’ll try to connect you with someone knowledgeable who does.