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BASCS Guidance

Methodological Background

Key Drivers for Change

A number of key drivers promoted the introduction of BASCS to the Government of Canada, including:

  • increased public demand for more open and transparent government;
  • existing systems not meeting the needs of user communities;
  • existing systems requiring frequent updating to keep up with changing organizational structures or changing content;
  • increased need to view records as living tools that have a distinct life cycle;
  • new concepts that support the need to surround records with their proper business context;
  • exponential growth in the volume of information;
  • the move towards digital information as the "record of choice";
  • the advent of networked computer environments, Intranets and the Internet, allowing for fast access to, and sharing of, records;
  • increasing recognition of information as a corporate asset which captures knowledge, history, and evidence of business activities and transactions;
  • the need to involve every user at every desk; and
  • the general trend towards standardization of business processes and methodologies that are drawn from best practices.

Global Trends
For many years, leading Records Management specialists have been forming concepts around function-based classification. Advanced concepts in Information Management employ top-down functional analysis to see how records serve the business purposes of an organization. This link of records to business models provides a unique opportunity to tie each record to the role and context it plays in the undertaking of the business itself.

This concept immediately elevates the record from old perceptions of low-value paper-based information to active, dynamic electronic information environments where records play an invaluable role in the institution's daily business processes and operations.

In addition, it is widely recognized that information is for the users, not for the records managers. Therefore, new approaches were needed to encourage user interaction and to define user responsibility at every desk as information is created and used. Much like the transition from massive computers in the 1950s that required rooms full of computer scientists to desktop computers that even children can run, Information Management is moving from the offices of experts onto every desk in the institution.

Information Management specialists are converging on the concept of function-based classification systems to satisfy key drivers in the business community at large. Similarly, the Government of Canada is pursuing improved management of information through a review of existing classification systems, and a recommendation for a function-based approach to records classification.

Best Practices Research

To launch the development process for a new model for classification systems, LAC looked to the national and international communities to locate advanced concepts, novel theories and best practices that would serve the needs of the Government of Canada.

As part of this research, LAC reviewed dozens of articles, documents, proceedings and published works; spoke with experts around the world; participated in meetings and conferences related to function-based classification; reviewed cost/benefit analyses; hunted for guidance from leading experts; and took an active role in developing ISO standards in the field of records management. In the process, LAC was able to pull from all the background data they had gathered to form a recommendation for a new classification system for the Government of Canada.

BASCS as a Recommended Approach

LAC's recommended approach is reflected in the development of the Business Activity Structure Classification System (BASCS) methodology, a function-based classification approach that provides new tools for creating enduring classification system designs within the Government of Canada.


A principle is a fundamental and truthful statement that will produce a predictable result when followed. The principles presented below were developed to foster consistent application of the BASCS approach to function-based classification. Incorporating them into the design considerations used to develop classification systems for your institution will ensure common understanding across the Government of Canada of the process for identifying functions, sub-functions, and activities, and thereby create a solid foundation for achieving such government-wide strategic Information Management objectives as single window access to government information holdings.

Design Philosophy

  • Government institutions produce records in response to direction received from Parliament. This direction takes the form of legislation, regulations, orders of the Governor-in-Council, and expressions of government policy. Responding to this direction is accomplished by undertaking functions, business processes (sub-functions) and activities that will achieve the desired goals and objectives. It follows, then, by incorporating functions, sub-functions and activities into classification systems, institutions position themselves to achieve government goals and objectives, and to more easily account for their actions.
  • Records constitute evidence of functions, sub-functions and activities, and must be contextualised accordingly.
  • Based on the direction it receives, the institution assigned with the responsibility of fulfilling a Government of Canada function will develop and implement a linear life cycle or cyclical progression of activities, or business process, that is designed to fulfill the function. In the BASCS hierarchical approach, the steps of this business process constitute sub-functions, each of which will encompass activities that involve transactions, which produce records. In other words, developing an information classification system using the BASCS "business activity structure" approach entails the deconstruction, in hierarchical order, of a government institution's business -- from the function(s) it has been assigned, to the sub-function steps of the business process used to fulfill a specific function, and the activities involved in accomplishing each sub-function.

Design Methodology

  • Developing a BASCS classification system requires an intellectual and perceptual shift away from reading and interpreting records as though their primary purpose was to describe or inform the reader about objects, end products, or the subject content of documents towards, instead, understanding the context that caused their creation. It requires reading and understanding records as documenting and evidencing functions, sub-functions, and activities. In other words, records are to be viewed as being primarily about business activities.
  • The BASCS design methodology employs the sequencing of activities composing a business process to structure the classification system's sequential arrangement of record groupings.
  • A business process is discovered through analysis of the linear or cyclical progression of activities that is designed to support an institution in producing the expected results in terms of the goods or services it is mandated or delegated to provide. Therefore, the inherent logical structure of BASCS is not characterized by an alphabetized arrangement of hierarchical groupings-as is often found in subject-based classification systems-but rather by an arrangement that is sequential in nature. This sequence is mapped out by performing business process analysis or modelling through such techniques as programme review and evaluation, workflow charting, programme/project planning, or critical path mapping.
  • A function-based model is well formed when it conforms to certain structural rules:
    • The model is precise (i.e., there is a well-defined semantic, so its interpretation is consistent and complete)
    • The model is simple (if the model is too complex, keeping it up to date becomes too difficult or expensive; the model is sufficiently "low level" to be meaningful)
    • The model has authority (i.e., it is derived from explicit legislative or Government of Canada policy expressions of direction, and from the business processes adopted by the authorities that are accountable for them).

BASCS Design Principles

1. The intent of the BASCS approach is to classify records within a three-tier hierarchy of business context (function, sub-function and activity).

2. The first tier of the BASCS hierarchy of business context equates to function.

2.1 A function is any high level purpose, responsibility, task or activity assigned to the accountability agenda of an institution by legislation, policy or mandate. A function is a major and unique operational activity, or a significant administrative activity common to institutions across the Government of Canada. A function comprises a set or series of sub-functions which, when carried out according to a prescribed sequence (i.e., a business process), will result in an institution producing the expected results in terms of the goods or services it is mandated or delegated to provide.

2.2 A single piece of legislation does not automatically equate to a single function. One or more functions might be derived from a single piece of legislation.

2.3 The 'high level' status of BASCS functions that are operational in nature is confirmed through institutional acknowledgement of the functional direction. This acknowledgement takes the form of declaring to government authorities (e.g., Parliament, Treasury Board of Canada) that the function is a strategic outcome of the institution, that it is a principal activity of the institution's Program Activity Architecture or that it is an institutional priority explicitly listed in the Main Estimates for government planning and funding purposes.

3. The second tier of the BASCS hierarchy of business context equates to sub-function.

3.1 Sub-functions are the major and unique steps of the business process an institution puts in place to fulfil a function. A business process will entail a linear or cyclical progression of activities designed to support an institution in producing the expected results in terms of the goods or services it is mandated or delegated to provide.

3.2 A business process may be derived from legislation or government policy, if such an articulation of process has been provided in the legislation or policy.

4. The third tier of the BASCS hierarchy of business context equates to activities.

4.1 BASCS activities are derived from the major tasks or actions performed by the institution to accomplish each step (i.e., sub-function) of the business process. Activities are the unique components of a sub-function which (may) occur in a linear or cyclical sequence that results in fulfilling the sub-function. Activities encompass transactions, which in turn produce records.

5. The terms used in the BASCS three-tier hierarchy (function, sub-function and activity) must be controlled for consistency, accuracy and quality of classification.

6. Below the three-tier hierarchy of a BASCS structure (i.e., function, sub-function, activity), records can be organized by:

  • transaction;
  • project;
  • object (case file); or
  • subject content

7. For the purpose of BASCS, transactions are the smallest measurable unit of work carried out as part of a business process in support of a BASCS activity. Transactions result in the production of records, which constitute evidence of activities performed in support of sub-functions that are carried out to fulfil a function.

8. Below the three-tier hierarchy of a BASCS structure (i.e., function, sub-function, activity), the number of additional levels of classification should correspond to the need for additional levels of precision.

9. The functional analysis required to construct a BASCS classification system consists of a 'top-down' analysis of business activities rather than a 'bottom-up' analysis focussed on objects, end products or the subject content of documents.

10. The BASCS structure and the preferred terms used in it are the foundation for a vocabulary control tool, thesaurus, index or other form of finding aid.

11. Terms used in the titles and descriptors of the BASCS models for common administrative functions are consistent with corresponding Treasury Board of Canada policies.

12. The metadata format derived from BASCS is compatible with the GoC Metadata Framework.

13. Application of the functional analysis methodology used to map the business activity structure must be consistent and predictable to the extent that its application by different individuals or teams will produce the same results.

14. Through its identification of government functions, BASCS is aligned with other government planning and Information Management initiatives and thereby serves as a key vehicle for knowledge management within the Government of Canada.

Comprehensive Matters

To avoid unnecessary duplication, each function-based records grouping should include a grouping for comprehensive matters. The Comprehensive Matters records grouping is not a formal part of the business process or sub-function tier of the BASCS classification hierarchy, rather it is a location to which records that apply generally to the business process may be classified. Examples include committee records when the scope of the committee encompasses the entire business process, and records of liaison activities when those activities address the entire business process. Comprehensive Matters may also be used as a location for records that pertain to the function, but not to a specific sub-function.

Note: records that simultaneously address two or more, but not all, sub-functions of the business process should be classified to one of the sub-functions; the existence of these records should be noted in the descriptions of the related sub-function, activity, and/or transaction records groupings or, if appropriate, in the profiles of related individual documents (as a metadata 'cross-reference' element).

Naming Conventions - Functions

Institution-specific (Operational) Functions

To facilitate the identification of a particular grouping of government records, the name or title of a BASCS function that has been assigned to the accountability agenda of a specific institution (i.e., a 'public program' or operational function of the Government of Canada) should not be used to identify another function performed by the same institution. In other words, a function title should be unique within the scope of functions assigned to a specific institution.

Note: the name or title of a BASCS function assigned to one institution may be used to identify a BASCS function assigned to another government institution; source identification, i.e., the institution-specific name or code, will serve to distinguish the records of identically named functions.

Common Administrative Functions

The name or title assigned to a BASCS common administrative function may be used to identify different collections or groupings of records of those functions occurring within the same institution. To distinguish the groupings, the following business rules should be applied:

  • the common administrative function coupled only with an institution-specific name or code will identify the corporate-level collection of records (e.g., Dept.X 4 = records of the Finance Management function in the record grouping of Department X - Corporate Services Sector)
  • the common administrative function coupled with an operational function code will identify common administrative records created in support of that particular function, for example, Dept.X A4 = records of the Finance Management function created and used specifically in support of an operational function assigned to an operational sector of Department X - operational function A.

Naming Conventions - Sub-functions

The name or title of a function cannot be used as the name or title of a sub-function of that particular function. The name or title of a sub-function cannot be used more than once within the business process of which the sub-function forms a component part.

Note: the name or title of a sub-function may be repeated from one business process to another, e.g., Human Records Management - Planning, Finance Management - Planning. The record groupings of identically named sub-functions will be distinguished by always including the name or codes of the corresponding function.

Naming Conventions - Activities

The name or title of an activity cannot be repeated within the scope of a single sub-function. The name or title of an activity cannot duplicate the name or title of the sub-function of which it is part.

Note: the name or title of an activity may be repeated from one sub-function to another, e.g., Finance Management - Management and Control - Reporting, Finance Management - Performance Measurement - Reporting. The record groupings of identically named activities will be distinguished by always including the name (or codes) of the corresponding function and sub-function.

BASCS Business Process Modeling

BASCS is built upon the functional business models of each unique institution. These various functional business models are nested within hierarchical models to arrive at an organizational view of the business of the institution, and of each function that supports that business.

Find existing business process models

Often, an institution will create a business process model to use in planning. Look for models that already exist for the institution and that match the list of functions and sub-functions that came out of the research. This model will determine how the functions and sub-functions should be arranged, based on what happens first, what happens next, and so on. A fundamental underpinning of BASCS is the sequence of activities in the business process. The sequence will be either linear (clear start and end points) or cyclical (clear start points with a sequence of activities that lead back to the start point in a continuing cycle) flows.

Determining business processes

As mentioned above, to determine institution-specific business processes:

  • check the laws, regulations, and Treasury Board policies that created or affect the institution for statements about how the institution is supposed to carry out the function
  • check the institution's own policies and procedures for such statements
  • focus on one function at a time
  • identify the steps involved in carrying out the function (use simple, clear words)
  • take a life cycle approach, looking for starting points to each process, such as planning
  • determine the order in which the steps are performed
  • look for end points for each process, such as performance evaluation
  • decide if the process is linear, with clear starting and end points, or cyclical, with the end point feeding back into the starting point again each time

Creation of a business process model should be undertaken with the assistance of experts in the field of business process modeling. When developing the model, it will be important to involve senior experts in the functional area you are modeling to help validate terminology and process stages. Undertaking sufficient consultation with others within that functional community will help ensure that consensus is reached and that your BASCS classification system is effective and meaningful to the users it serves.

Within each Government of Canada department, a number of common administrative functions such as Finance Management, Human Resources Management, Real Property Management and Materiel Management have already been mapped into suggested business models that can be used to guide the creation of your own business process models for the groups you are supporting with your classification initiative. Refer to the Functional Models in this portal to view a sample business model for each function.

Common Administrative Functions
The administrative functions that are common to all Government of Canada institutions include:

  • General Administration; (includes management of government information, security, and administrative support)
  • Real Property Management;
  • Materiel Management;
  • Finance Management, and
  • Human Resources Management.

Departmental Needs

As part of its mandate to facilitate the management of information by government institutions, LAC sought to create models that would make it faster and easier for departments to move to function-based classification. LAC determined that creating models for common administrative functions would be an excellent starting point to help departments launch their function-based classification systems. LAC is using the BASCS common administrative models as conceptual and structural examples to help explain the methodology departments can use to build function-based classification systems for their own operational programs.

Model Development Process

To that end, LAC undertook to research and build initial models for all common administrative functions. These models would then be reviewed by functional experts from various departments through a series of consultations and pilot test programs.

LAC researched the legislation and Treasury Board policies that applied to each of these common functions and derived a first model of the prescribed business processes by function. After consultation rounds, a prototype functional classification system model for each function was drafted, and once again subjected to review and revision by a wider set of functional experts. The Finance Management and Human Resources Management models were then ready for pilot programs with participating departments, including Natural Resources Canada, Health Canada, Canadian International Development Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. More specific review and revision resulted from the pilot tests, and the resulting amended models form LAC's proposed Draft BASCS Models for Common Administrative Functions contained in this document. Pilots and further consultation to validate Real Property and Materiel Management models will take place in fiscal 2004-05. It is expected that as implementations accelerate and mature within more departments and institutions, continuous feedback will improve these models and allow for publishing of enhanced models as time goes on.

Consultation Process

Input from functional experts within LAC forms the first phase of the consultation process in developing these draft models. Following that initial review and revision round, input from IM specialists and functional experts is sought from a number of individuals who are interested in participating in the development of an improved classifications system for their departments. The models are amended to reflect their input, and are then ready for pilot testing within a number of departments. Workshops are generally held at two stages to collect feedback and input on the models and their underlying concepts, and that input is reflected in the models contained in this BASCS Guide. Consultation will continue to be sought as more departments implement BASCS to continuously improve results.

Flexibility and Adaptability of BASCS Models

BASCS models for common administrative functions have been designed with enough flexibility to address the needs of all Government of Canada institutions. Based on a rigorous research and consultation process, the models are designed to be "off-the-shelf" and ready to use. Where needed, each model can be tailored to reflect the unique business processes of the individual institution.

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