Functional Classification

Functional Classification is a records classification system that arranges records based on the functions of the institution and the activities that are required to carry out the functions. This is in contrast to earlier systems that organized records based on the creator or the subject. To create a functional classification scheme, the key functions of an institution are identified and analyzed. During analysis, functions are broken down into sub-functions and activities. Generally, the activity level is where you see the creation of records.

For example, a common function across all institutions is that of managing staff - Human Resources. One of the many activities that exist within a Human Resources function is that of hiring new staff. During the staffing process, many records may need to be created. For example:

  • a job description
  • a job posting or advertisement
  • criteria and templates to use to review applications
  • applications and letters of reference
  • interview scheduling
  • letters generated to send to successful and unsuccessful candidates

Financial Management is another common function that exists within most organizations and businesses. Many sub-functions exist within financial management, such as accounting, budgeting, reporting and so on. Each sub-function could be further broken down into activities. At this level, we begin to see records groups or series that document the actions taken to carry out the function, such as transactions or reconciliations (example below). It is at the action level that we can begin to assign a retention timeframe to the records. The retention would be applied, regardless of format. A record that provides evidence of a transaction could take the form of an EFT, paper or electronic invoice, or even and old fashioned cheque. 

Finance Chart Showing Sub-Functions and Records Groups

At the activity level, record series can be identified, classified and scheduled for retention according to use, legislation or regulatory requirements and historical relevance.

Once a record series is identified, the retention and disposition for the series can be established.  A variety of criteria are evaluated to determine the retention.  Firstly, business requirement: how long are the records required by the creators to effectively complete their tasks?  Secondly, legislation or regulated requirements:  are there any legislation or external regulatory or advisory agencies that provide information on how long such records are required?  Thirdly, historical or enduring value: do the records have any archival or historical significance that requires permanent preservation? 

Once these questions are answered, a time frame for retention can be established and the Final Disposition can be determined. The Final Disposition refers to what happens to the record after it is no longer of use to the creating body.  It can either be destroyed or transferred to Archives for permanent retention and preservation.

The University has several key administrative functions that are important to ensuring the smooth functioning of the organization, enabling us to support the key goals of creating and disseminating knowledge.  The Access and Privacy Office is in the process of developing Functional Classification Schemes for the administrative and key functions of the University.

The first step towards this plan has been the development of the Common Records Schedule, which incorporates many general administrative functions into a single schedule for use by all University faculties/departments and offices.  

The Common Records Schedule can be found here.


Last Updated: October 25, 2017

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