We consider a file plan that is optimized for an electronic records management context to be a technology-ready file plan. These file plans are smaller and simpler, making them – and you – more agile.
Whether you’re transitioning from physical records to electronic records, or you’re developing a green-field electronic records management system, the development of a technology-ready file plan is an essential component that will save you and your users headaches down the line.
In order to explain how file plans can be optimized for technology, we need to reflect on some basics. A file plan is an essential piece of any physical or electronic records management environment. It connects records to categories, and categories to disposition schedules. File plans were originally introduced to support the physical management of records. In that world, there are storage rooms, cabinets and shelving, all mapped and organized to store paper.
In this original context, these file plans delivered three outcomes:
- Organize categories and records into a comprehensible structure;
- Associate categories with retention schedules (to facilitate disposition);
- Allow people to find records (aka search).
The last outcome, delivered somewhat as a result of the first outcome, is worth calling out explicitly. Developing a file plan that permits people to find physical records makes sense. However, in an electronic context, search is delivered a search engine (rather than the file plan structure). Search applications with their refiners and advanced search options are much more capable at locating content. Its like finding a phone number using the phone book instead of Google.
Initially, this may seem like a trivial distinction, but much of the granularity of categories – maybe up to eighty percent – found in a file plan is there to help people find records. Records with identical disposition schedules are often categorized separately to provide a distinction for purposes of finding content, but when using electronic document managements, search and effective use of metadata for filtering is much more useful and flexible than records categories. In effect, this approach adds another level to your file plan. The nature of a hierarchy is that each additional layer is broader or bigger than the proceeding layer.
This matters because the bigger the volume of file plans, (by definition) the more categories they have. In an electronic sense, additional categories mean more content rules, more workflows, more disposition schedules (simply because you can), and more complexity. People argue that, in that electronic context, additional rules, disposition schedules or complexity have no impact, but in reality they create unneeded overhead. Overhead in the initial implementation project, overhead in operation and overhead post go-live sustainment.
This overhead means less agility. Less agility to respond to your users’ changing needs, and less agility to respond to changes in legislation or regulations.
Depending on how much exposure your end-users have to your file plan, reducing its size and complexity will be appreciated by them, too. (We advocate increasing user adoption by reducing or eliminating your users’ exposure to the file plan.)
Contact us today to talk about our process to develop technology-ready file plans.