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Function-based Classification

Systems and processes that support organisations in meeting their accountability obligations and in managing their information efficiently and effectively are the focus of the International Organization for Standardization standard on Information and documentation - Records management (ISO 15489-1) and the Government of Canada's Management of Government Information Policy (MGI). Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has recognized the growing interest within the national and international information management community in using function-based classification as a means to more readily respond to accountability obligations, and to manage business records efficiently and effectively.

To support Canadian federal government institutions intending to create a function-based view of their records, LAC has developed a design methodology for constructing function-based records classification systems. This methodology is called Business Activity Structure Classification System (BASCS - pronounced as basis).

Function-based records classification is a logical arrangement of all records documenting or evidencing the activities of an institution based upon an analysis of the institutions business functions, sub-functions, and activities. Function-based analysis focuses on the accountability agenda of an institution and, in so doing, situates records within their operational or administrative context and, in an order that reflects the sequence in which activities and/or events take place. It is our contention that function-based classification systems will prove more effective and enduring because they are based on analyses of actual business activities and processes of the institution rather than the subject content of documents, frequently changing organizational structures, or other characteristics upon which records classification systems were traditionally constructed.

Functional analysis is also the cornerstone of the methodology LAC uses to appraise the archival value of Government of Canada records. Through the use of functional analysis, LAC replaced the General Records Disposal Schedules (GRDS, Authority No. 86/001) with new Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDAs) covering broad administrative functions common to institutions across the GC. Functional analysis was also used to develop model classification systems for the records of these common administrative functions - systems which all GC institutions will be able to use to organise their own records of these common functions. The development of prototype classification systems for records of such functions as real property management, materiel management, finance management, and human resources management functions entailed extensive consultation with managers and practitioners in fields of Information Management and each common administrative function. The model classification systems and a suite of complimentary products are being developed to facilitate the implementation of BASCS.

Ultimately, LAC plans to provide a comprehensive package of products to support institutions moving to function-based records classification systems, for both common administrative functions as well as for institution-specific operational functions. The component parts of the BASCS Toolkit will be:

  • BASCS Guidance Manual
  • the BASCS methodology
  • prototype classification models (with links to relevant legislation and policy) for common administrative functions
  • an implementation guide and sample conversion plans for common administrative records
  • a function-based records classification model for an institution-specific operational function (developed using the BASCS approach)
  • an information management thesaurus for common administrative records, and
  • training guidance.

Current work and future steps include the continuing development of prototype models for common administrative functions and for an institution-specific operational function, a training strategy and a comprehensive training module to help roll-out BASCS, as well as a strategy for developing a comprehensive IM thesaurus for common administrative functions, with development of the actual thesaurus to follow.

As each of the components of the BASCS Toolkit are developed, they will be made available via this location.

For more information, please communicate with the Information Management Centre by calling 819-934-7519 or sending an email to centre.liaison.centre@bac-lac.gc.ca.