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BASCS Guidance

The Business Activity Structure Classification System (BASCS) Guidance offers implementation guidance to support function-based classification system design and implementation by departments. Key concepts and principles are articulated to help IM practitioners apply these concepts and principles to their own unique operational requirements.

Methodological Background
BASCS Implementation Guide
Operational Functions Model
BASCS Models for Common Administrative Functions
BASCS Support Tools
BASCS Status Updates



Records Management is at the heart of a fundamental paradigm shift in how information is used, managed, and valued in the world at large, and within the Government of Canada (GoC) specifically.

The continued focus on business needs and the modern office environment are driving new concepts and new approaches in Information Management. These new concepts and approaches must address issues such as management accountability, management of government information, access to information and protection of personal information, and offer the opportunity to use our information assets to better satisfy the information needs of government, and by extension, Canadians.

It is an exciting time for the Information Management community as it looks for new ways to explore these opportunities and enable their institutions to manage information assets responsibly and efficiently. As part of this search to support better Information Management, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has undertaken the task of investigating various options for improved classification system design. Classification structures create order and understanding about what an institution does and how it does it, and provide the basis of sound internal decision-making and optimal external service delivery to Canadians. LAC has embodied its findings and recommendations in the form of a design methodology for constructing function-based records classification systems. This methodology is called the Business Activity Structure Classification System (BASCS - pronounced as basis).

Purpose of BASCS Guide

The BASCS Guide offers implementation guidance to support function-based classification system design and implementation by departments. Key concepts and principles are articulated to help IM practitioners apply these concepts and principles to their own unique operational requirements.

The Guide is also designed to present model function-based classification systems in support of common administrative functions such as Real Property Management, Materiel Management, Finance Management, and Human Resources Management. These are intended to make it easier and faster for GoC institutions to organize their records of these functions, and to foster the consistent arrangement of such records across the Government of Canada. The models are derived from related legislation and government-wide policies, and refined by functional and IM specialists to provide 'off-the-shelf', ready-to-use solutions. Some adaptation of the models may be appropriate to meet the needs of each department's own business processes.

Important Concepts

There are a number of important foundational concepts that should be considered by managers, information specialists and users who are attempting to improve their Information Management initiatives in general, and their classification systems specifically. A common understanding of these concepts will influence the degree of participation and support for new classification system implementations. These foundational concepts include:

  1. Information is an asset. An important part of the shift in how people use information is the recognition that information is an asset. This is especially true in government institutions where all information collected, created, received or captured contributes to the pool of knowledge used in the service of Canadians.

  2. Records are living tools that empower individuals and institutions. Contrary to notions that management of records begins only when they are sent to the records office, contemporary thought in the Information Management arena views records as living tools that have utility for the person who creates, collects and uses them, for the institution they serve, and for the functional community that requires them. This means that each record has a natural "cradle to grave" life cycle that begins when a record is created. Strategies for managing that record must consider how it is needed and used at each stage of its life cycle.

    The Government of Canada has adopted the notion that the record of choice is the electronic record. Electronic formats open the floodgates for smart-use and sharing of information. Now, more than ever, there is a need to establish control at the point of creation-to support timely access to accurate and complete records. A records classification system is the mechanism for efficiently managing records across all life cycle stages, and supporting these control and access needs.

  3. Responsibility and participation at every desk is a critical concept for success in the information age. This concept is reflected in the Treasury Board Management of Government Information (MGI) policy, which states that "All public service employees are responsible for applying Information Management principles, standards, and practices in the performance of their duties...". The responsibility for managing records no longer belongs exclusively to the Information Management community; it is now decentralized to implicate all public service employees in the Government of Canada.

    Much like computers have moved from rooms full of computer scientists onto the desk of every government employee, records management begins at the point of record creation. The role of the Information Management community is to build the easy, intuitive interfaces and tools to facilitate the ability to classify and retrieve records at every desktop. It is the logical evolution of Information Management practices inside the business of government, and this concept is a critical underpinning of the Government's ability to leverage new opportunities and respond to more stringent governance and accountability demands.

  4. The past is not the future for information users and records managers. The process of moving from a past full of inaccessible paper documents stored in file cabinets often removed from the information user to a future where digital records are created, accessed and managed in real time through computer networks is a giant leap for mankind. There is a time for change, and that time is now. Records Management is at the heart of this change; change that is driven by systems and design concepts and innovations that meet emerging needs to re-design the Government of Canada's information base, and support the vision of the future.

    A key aspect of this change from past to future is the concept that records serve and support people in functions and functional communities first, and broader access requirements second. This means that records management infrastructures, such as classification systems, must be driven by the functional context in which users create, use, and need information. Records Management must respond to the strategic importance of enabling people to responsibly and efficiently manage their information from cradle to grave. This concept, when applied, enables intelligent access to the information resources created on a daily basis by Government of Canada employees at all levels. It enables records to be available and meaningful to the people for whom it is most useful.

  5. There is an "Anatomy of Change" for every important paradigm shift, large or small. In the case of records management, a number of required shifts in perception, belief, and behaviour must be recognized and encouraged to effectively enact positive change:
  • "My" information: while people may perceive that the information they create and use each day is theirs, it is in fact a public asset. All information that is collected, created, received or captured by a public service employee in the course of their work belongs to the Canadian taxpayer, and may be subject to the provisions of the Access to Information or Privacy Acts. Perceptions of ownership must be acknowledged and managed to encourage people to share information in a timely fashion and participate in corporate Information Management initiatives.
  • "It's only me": sometimes, government employees may not recognize the value of their own personal contributions. Each and every Government of Canada employee provides a valuable function that is an important part of the government team. Each position is created to serve specific needs, and the perception of value at every desk-by self or others-is an issue that needs attention to ensure high levels of participation.
  • "My information isn't that important; no one will want it": employees may not recognize the value of their information to others. When viewed from a function-based context, employees need to understand that others who fulfill a similar function inside and outside the employee's own work group might benefit from that individual's knowledge, best practice experiences, tools and templates, etc.

I haven't done a lot of 'records management' before, and it didn't seem to be a problem": not every government employee recognizes the impact that MGI already has every day on their job, at their desk. Under MGI, all public service employees are responsible for:

  1. documenting their activities and decisions;
  2. applying Information Management principles, standards, and practices in the performance of their duties; and
  3. identifying information requirements and issues to Information Management specialists and information technology personnel.
  • These responsibilities must be understood to increase understanding by all employees of the role of Information Management, and the context in which classification initiatives are undertaken. Find out more about MGI.
  • "Records classification systems don't have anything to do with me": from the perspective of managing information assets through their life cycle, this sentiment reflects the fact that life cycle management is more of a corporate responsibility than that of an individual employee. However, without such systems it is impossible for an employee to be sure that they can access all the information they need to do their job, responsibly and efficiently. As much as the move to function-based classification systems responds to life cycle management needs -- by surrounding records with the context needed to make life cycle management decisions -- it also responds to each user's need to relate to their information in ways that correspond to how they do their jobs. BASCS exemplifies how records managers are viewing the institution's unique business and business processes as the foundation of corporation information classification systems, systems that will make it easier, faster, and far more intuitive for all employees to store and retrieve records every day.
  • "The Information Management community will drive this process": the truth is that senior executives within each institution must champion Information Management and allocate sufficient resources to support efforts to build a stronger future.
  • "Progress will be steady, and take time to reflect users' true needs": reassessing, redesigning, and rebuilding an institution's underlying records classification system is indeed a significant investment in time, effort, and resources. Depending on the size and complexity of an institution's mandate, records managers can expect their efforts to involve steady and patient rollout efforts that cross multiple fiscal years. It is helpful to recognize and encourage progress frequently throughout the process. The benefits are significant and strategic for every level of the institution.

The Value of Classification for Information Management

A classification system is a key foundational element of Information Management within an institution. It is a roadmap that provides the rules and definitions used to store and retrieve business information. Its primary purpose, from the life cycle management perspective, is to support decision-making at a collective rather than object-by-object level, a critical consideration given the vast volumes of records created each and every day. And, records classification systems that embody the reasons why records are created and used improve all stages of the Records and Information Management life cycle-they enhance and facilitate our understanding of the records these systems contain.

Finally, implementing an effective classification system can mitigate many institutional risks, especially in institutions subject to higher levels of accountability and/or public scrutiny.

Why Classify Business Information by Function?

Although it is still common practice to classify records according to their subject content, current best practices of experts around the world base classification on a rigorous analysis of business functions and activities. A function-based approach anchors information and records classification firmly in business processes and activities.

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 institution's 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 Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) opinion that function-based classification systems will prove more effective and enduring because they are based on analyses of the actual business activities and processes of the institution rather than the subject content of documents, organizational structures that frequently change, 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 (GoC) 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 GoC. Functional analysis was also used to develop model classification systems for the records of these common administrative functions-systems which all GoC institutions will be able to use to organize their own records of these common functions.

BASCS Structure

BASCS involves three levels of classification: function, sub-function, and activity.

The term function is defined as:

  1. any high-level purpose, responsibility, task or activity which is assigned to the accountability agenda of an institution by legislation, policy or mandate;
  2. typically common administrative or operational functions of policy development and program and/or delivery of goods or services;
  3. a set or series of activities (broadly speaking a business process) which, when carried out according to a prescribed sequence, will result in an institution or individual producing the expected results in terms of the goods or services it is mandated or delegated to provide.

Sub-functions are the parts of the business process mentioned in the third part of the above definition of a function (i.e., a step in the business process used to fullfil the function).

Activities are the next level of the system, taking the form of actions or transactions.

The BASCS Toolkit

To promote and support successful implementation of BASCS within the Government of Canada, LAC agreed to develop the BASCS Guide as part of a comprehensive BASCS toolkit. Ultimately, this toolkit will constitute a comprehensive package of products to support Government of Canada institutions moving to function-based records classification systems, for both common administrative functions as well as for institution-specific operational functions.

The BASCS toolkit will include an implementation methodology and guidance, sample conversion plans, model classification structures for common administrative functions, a vocabulary tool and a training strategy. Many of these items can already be found in LAC's BASCS Guidance web pages. Planned work will focus on completing the development of additional model structures, developing a training strategy and comprehensive training module to help roll out BASCS, and a comprehensive BASCS vocabulary tool.

The BASCS Keyword Mapping Tool

Welcome to the Business Activity Structure Classification System (BASCS) Keyword Mapping Tool

This tool is designed to link key words to their function-based business contexts and to other information resource management tools, such as Business Activity Structure Classification System (BASCS) model structures for common administrative functions, the Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records, and the Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDAs) covering common administrative functions. The purpose of the Keyword Mapping tool is to help classify and find information.

You can obtain a copy of the Excel document by contacting:

Recordkeeping Liaison Centre
Government Records Branch
Library and Archives Canada
Telephone: 819-934-7519 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll free in Canada and the US)
Fax: 819-934-7534