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©2005

Misconceptions in the records management fraternity - January 2006

Misconceptions in the records management fraternity in respect to the intellectual creation, management and maintenance of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri and Business Classification Schemes (BCSs)

As a person with an interest in this subject area as a consultant specialising in the creation of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri, Business Classification Schemes (BCSs) and Retention and Disposal (R&D) or Disposition schedules it is in my interest to provide my clients and by way of that business relationship, myself with the most efficient tools to carry out these tasks.

Since carrying out a consultancy for a major government agency in Western Australia in this environment in the mid 2002, I found the then required use of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and to a lesser extent Microsoft Word to be less than desirable as tools to carry out this process.

What is the answer?

For one I can tell you that it is a misconception that these processes can be created, managed and maintained in the operational records management software being used by organisations in their Records and Information Management RIM Systems e.g. Records Management Systems - RMS, Electronic Document Management Systems - EDMS, Electronic Document and Records Management Systems - EDRMS or Electronic Records and Document Management Systems - ERDMS. These products have never been designed for this purpose and using them for the creation and management of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri and Business Classification Schemes (BCSs) is fraught with danger. A specialised tool to carry out this process is required for the work to be done external to the RIM, RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS environment and in a controlled Quality Assurance situation separate and external to the day to day operating Records and Information Management - RIM system. This separation of design and application allows for the sanctity of the day to day operation of the installed RIM, RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS environment to proceed without interruption or alteration by this intellectual process. All work on updating or revising the Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri and Business Classification Schemes (BCSs) can be carried out, verified and tested in a non impacting stand alone environment by input by the end user (the client) and the service provider, the RIM division.

NOTE of caution: Some RIM divisions truly and erroneously believe that they own the corporate records. This is as far form the truth as any misconception. The organisation, the end user and possibly even the public own the records and the RIM division is the trusted service provider and possibly custodian of this precious resource.

Why?

Unfortunately there is a widely held misconception that the creation, management and maintenance of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri and Business Classification Schemes (BCSs) can be done on the fly in the day to day working environment in which the RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS is operating. I have observed level one [low end] clerical staff changing and adding terminology to an approved Thesaurus and Business Classification Scheme (BCSs) in a live working environment on the fly and in the day to day working environment in which the RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS is operating without an understanding to the consequences of their actions. To my horror this person had been carrying out this process for several years. There was no consultation with the end users, no capture of or documentation as to what had been altered, updated or added. The only concept in the view of the perpetrator (and with the approval of their supervisor) was that the terminology was incorrect and needed to be corrected. No wonder when the end user went to search for information entered into the RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS system in the past they cannot locate the information and understandably revert back to saving their born digital documents on their own or shared network drives or again HORROR, their C: drive.

Please tell me I am dreaming!

No, sorry, it was not a dream, it was real and I was exposed to this environment in the light of day. This situation is real and unfortunately is occurring day in and day out across numerous environments, and it should be stopped, and now.

Where is the versioning control of these critically important aspects of an RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS system environments? If the concept that we should manage documents, records, websites and webpages in a controlled versioning environment as quality records management practice is a truism, would it not also hold true that the foundation stone on which the RIM and the use of RMS, EDMS, EDRMS or ERDMS systems is based should also be versioned and that each update or change to the foundation stone consisting of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri and Business Classification Schemes (BCSs) be captured and maintained and approved by a relevant Quality Assurance process prior to any update or changes going live at the workface. If this is not the case I obviously have lost the plot as to what this profession stands for and has been promoting and heading towards for some time.

I personally use a software creation, management and maintenance tool for the creation of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Business Classification Schemes (BCSs) and also Retention and Disposition (R&D) schedules that provides me with all of the things I am advocating above and which I feel so strongly about that I have accepted the opportunity to market the product in Western Australia. That being said I may be deemed to be biased in regard to this subject if that is so then i will accept that perception. I urge all persons involved in this wonderful profession to take a good hard look at their current operating environment and the implications of not utilising an appropriate tool external to their day to day operating RM environment for the creation of Controlled Vocabularies (CVs), Thesauri, Business Classification Schemes (BCSS) plus Retention and Disposal (R&D) or Disposition schedules. If records management professionals can hold their hands over their hearts and honestly state that my position regarding this concept is flawed then I will be happy to discuss our differing positions on this extremely important, NO CRITICAL matter with the hope that enlightenment may prevail.

May truth win over rhetoric and that common (or is that uncommon) sense prevails.

Happy classifying!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 31 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perths Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

Please Note: This article was first published in the - Records Management Society of the United Kingdom - Records Management Bulletin in their December 2005 issue. For further information about the UK Records Management Society Bulletin Magazine please visit their website @ The Records Management Society Bulletin.

The author, Laurie Varendorff of the Varendorff Records Management Consultancy - TVC - Helping clients manage their e-World gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to be negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.