Classification is a fundamental function in records management. Classification is the
systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and/or records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods, and procedural rules represented in a classification system."
(AS ISO 15489.1, 3.5)
In records management, records are classified according to the business functions and activities which generate the records. This functional approach to classification means that classification can be used for a range of records management purposes, including appraisal and disposal, determining handling, storage and security requirements, and setting user permissions, as well as providing a basis for titling and indexing.
The process of compiling a keyword thesaurus has strong links to the DIRKS process. Stage 1, preparation, may be carried out before commencing a DIRKS project, to help determine the necessary scope of the DIRKS project, or once Steps A, B and C of DIRKS have been completed. Stage 2, collecting information, refers to the information gathered in Steps B and C of DIRKS. Step F and Step G of the DIRKS manual cover general implementation issues and processes such as planning, training, communication and change management. The DIRKS manual is available online in Opengov.
A thesaurus is a tool that supports the classification and management of records, usually at the file level. In a keyword thesaurus:
- keywords describe broad business functions
- activity descriptors describe business activities
- subject descriptors describe subjects or topics that connect related business transactions.
The keywords and descriptors are authorised terms. These authorised terms can be supplemented by some free text, such as the name of an organisation, an individual or a project. The terms are arranged hierarchically from the broadest to the most specific concept: keyword – activity descriptor – subject descriptors and/or free text.
While commonly associated with registry or file based systems, keyword thesauri can be used for records in any format and in any technological environment.
Keyword AAA is a general records management thesaurus widely used within the NSW Government. Agencies are not obliged to use it but we strongly recommend that they do so. We also sell Keyword AAA commercially outside the NSW Government, nationally both at Commonwealth and State levels, and internationally. One feature which highlights the value of this kind of tool in promoting a continuum-based management framework for government records is its functional basis. This means that Keyword AAA uses a function-based approach to reflect the business context in which the records are created. Functional analysis is the process of analysing functions (or broad areas of business activity) and assessing the need to keep evidence of these functions.
NSW State Archives and Records also sells under licence arrangements another keyword thesaurus product specifically designed for local government: Keyword for Councils.
By applying classification schemes based on business functions as shown in Keyword AAA and Keyword for Councils, records can be indexed and titled and we can determine how they should be kept, how they should be stored and how people should have access to them. Because it is a very powerful records management tool, the functional approach is embodied in the Australian and International Standards on records management.
More information about purchasing these keyword products is available on the keyword products page.
Published April 2014 / revised February 2015 / revised May 2018