Records Management - Developing an information map

"There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions, and merely lukewarm defenders in those who should gain by new ones."

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

1. What is an information map?
2. Why is an information map needed?
3. Where does responsibility lie for the creation and maintenance of the information map?
4. How to develop an information map - ISO 15489
5. ISO 15489 - Methodology
6. ISO 15489 - Methodology (Diagrammatic Representation)
7. How to maintain the information map
8. What help is available?

1. What is an information map?

1.1. An information map shows the different types of information that is held by a school or section, and also where that information can be found. The map is developed from a basic business analysis of the functions, activities and transactions that take place within the school or section and provides answers to the questions ‘What does the school or section do?’ and ‘How does the school or section do it?'.

1.2. What are business functions, activities and transactions?

  • a 'function' is what the school or section does to achieve its goals and strategic aims.

  • an 'activity' is how it carries out those functions and;

  • 'transactions' are the individual tasks that comprise the activity

1.3. Information maps exist at different levels of detail, ranging from a high-level overview of the University’s business functions down to a detailed listing of the types of records created by a particular task, it might even document the flow of information between individual tasks. (see Figure 1.) At Newcastle we normally see this type of information mapping within the SAP environment.

1.4. One of the main advantages to be generated out of the information map is the establishment of the business context - that is the background business information that enhances our understanding of both the technical and business environment to which the records both relate and, more importantly, evidence. (see Figure 2.) This enables us to build an effective filing order, reflecting the improved business understanding that the information map generates.

1.5. Information maps within schools or sections need to cover records in all formats, including paper files, web sites, plans, e-mail, databases, and all other electronic information.

1.6. In generating the information map we're additionally seeking to provide answers to:

  • What the school or section's information needs are?

  • What information is being created and what is its value to the school or section?

  • Are there any information gaps?

  • What external information resources are being used and how else could they be used;

  • What internal information resources are being used, and how else could they be used;

  • What are the information flows and are there any bottlenecks within those flows.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

2. Why is an information map needed?

2.1. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires the University to respond to all requests for information from anyone in the world and in respect of any recorded information that we hold.

2.2. It is the case that we do not always have to provide the information that is requested, but it is also generally the case that we will have to say whether or not we hold it - and to provide a response within 20 working days of the request being received. The legal requirement cannot be met unless the University knows what information it holds and where it is.

2.3. An information map also provides the following business benefits:

  • they enable the University to locate, document and manage its information assets;

  • by identifying the business reasons in respect of how long a school or section needs to keep particular types of information, the University is in a position to know just why specific information is being held;

  • an information map provides the basis for any University records retention schedule and ultimately provides the sound foundation needed for the organization of the University’s information.
3. Where does responsibility lie for the creation and maintenance of the information map?

3.1. The highest-level information map will be maintained centrally by the University Records Manager. School or sectional maps will be compiled and maintained by individuals charged with responsibility for carrying out the functions and activities that are covered by the map - or by nominated administrators charged with responsibility for records management in the particular business areas. ie school and/or faculty administrators. In order to enable the University to maintain the overall information map the school or section needs to ensure that a copy of their map is forwarded to the University Records Manager.

3.2. Business functions sometimes cut across organizational boundaries and it may be necessary for staff from different sections to co-operate in the building of the map.

4. How to develop an information map - ISO 15489

4.1. For small delimited functions it is possible to develop an information map using a combination of team work, personal interviews and school or sectional questionnaires.

4.2. For larger functional areas however, a more structured methodology is required. For this you should use the 8 step methodology of ISO 15489 in respect of the design and development of record keeping systems.

4.3. The method is resource intensive and, for some schools or sections, it may not be possible for the the full methodology to be pursued. However, if current resource prevents you from developing the information map properly, you will still need to ask the following basic questions in order to deliver what is in effect, the minimum requirement for an informnation map to be useful. Whichever approach you take, it is essential that you document your research - if you do not do this you will have wasted your time.

  • what are your school/section’s functions? (ie what do you do);

  • what activities do you carry out to fulfil those functions? (ie how do you do it);

  • what information do you receive to carry out the activity?

  • what information do you produce from the activity?

  • to whom do you provide that information?

  • what records do you need to keep?

  • what records do you generate that other business areas need to keep?

  • what is the best way of organizing this information?

5. ISO 15489
Step A - Preliminary Investigation

You need to collect information from documentary sources and through interviews with relevant staff, to identify and document the role and purpose of the school or section within the University; the legal, regulatory and business environment within which it operates as well as the critical factors and the the critical weaknesses that are associated with the school or sections records.

The purpose of Step A is to identify and document the role of the school or section. It provides the opportunity to conduct preliminary research and consultation about record keeping issues, and to identify particular problems or risk areas. Overall it provides the crucial contextual information about factors that influence the school or section’s need to create and maintain records.

Step B - Analysis of Business Activity

You need to Identify and document each business function, activity and transaction and establish a hierarchy for them, identify and document the flow of business processes that comprise them. This will provide you with the ability to devise a functional classification scheme for filing purposes.

By the examination of business activities and processes, the purpose of Step B is to develop a conceptual model of what the school or section does and how it does it, . The analysis provides the core foundation for the development of good record keeping tools and contributes to all decisions regarding the creation, capture, control, storage, disposal and access of records in subsequent steps of the methodology. Step B is a particularly important step in the electronic business environment where the connection between the University and its records is logical/intellectual, rather than physical, in nature.

Step C -Identifying the Requirements for Records

You need to identify the requirements for evidence of, and information about each business function, activity and transaction that needs to be satisfied by the school or section's records. The requirement can be derived from an analysis of the school or section's regulatory environment placed against a consideration of the risk of not creating and maintaining the records

The purpose of Step C is to identify and record the school or section's requirements to make and keep evidence of its business activities and to document the requirements in a structured and easily maintained form. Evidence (in the form of records) helps ensure that the University is accountable to students, staff, government, courts of law and community interest groups. (and, not least, to future generations) Records also support business processes and continuity, interaction with University customers, standards of service and decision-making.

Step D - Assessing Existing Systems

You need to identify and analyze your existing records systems and any other information systems and measure their performance against the requirements for the records that you have identified in Step C.

The purpose of Step D is to survey the school or section's existing record keeping and other information systems to measure the extent to which they provide the required evidence of business activity, or have the required functionality to do so. To do this, the requirements for evidence identified in Step C are drawn upon.

Basically this is gap analysis: The difference between the University’s evidentiary requirement and the existing system(s) ability to meet that requirement.

Step E - Identifying Strategies

The purpose of Step E is to determine the most appropriate policies, practices, standards, tools and other tactics that the University needs to adopt in order to address the weaknesses that are identified in Step D and also to ensure that the record keeping requirements identified in Step C are met.

Strategies may include adopting policies and procedures, developing or adopting standards, designing new system components or implementing systems and practices in a way that satisfies the school or section's record keeping requirements.

Step F - Systems Design

The design process involves producing a viable plan, that will satisfy previously articulated requirements in an acceptable manner. In the context of ISO15489, the systems design step involves converting the strategies and tactics selected in Step E into a blueprint for a record keeping system, in order to address:

  • the record keeping requirements identified and documented during Step C

  • any inadequacies or gaps identified during Step D.

  • required changes to current systems, processes and practices

  • possible technological solutions

  • people
Step G - System Implementation

The implementation of a records system needs to be undertaken systematically, using project planning and appropriate methodologies to suit the situation.

The purpose of Step G is to systematically identify and put in place an appropriate mix of measures in order to successfully implement the ‘plan’ that was the output of Step F. Your plan will have provided the overview of how the various system components (processes, procedures, people and technology) need to fit together. The overall aim here is to integrate the records system with the school or section's business processes. Step G therefore builds on the initial implementation plan developed as part of Step F.

Step H - Post Implementation Review

The purpose of Step H is to evaluate the efficiency and appropriateness of the development process (especially Steps F and G), and to recommend and undertake any remedial action in order to address any deficiencies, as well as to establish a monitoring regime for the duration that the system is in place.

In short, the review is there to measure the effectiveness of the record keeping practices that have been put in place. To focus on the solutions that have been implemented, and to measure them against the record keeping requirements and organizational constraints that were defined in Steps C to E. Step H can be undertaken by a mixture of interviews and questionnaires aimed at members of management and other key staff.

Figure 3.

7. How to maintain the information map

6.1. The University will change over time and for any information map to remain of value it needs to be kept up to date. Information maps need to be reviewed periodically therefore in order to confirm that they are still relevant. Some issues to consider are:

  • When developing the map, involve as many people with an interest in the area as possible. This will ensure that the map has a significant consultative dimension and meets all of the needs of your business area.

  • Have the business functions changed since the map was last generated? (this is unlikely, business functions are generally stable, – but the question still needs to be asked)

  • Have the processes changed? (this is more likely as it focuses on ‘how things are done’ rather than ‘what is done’)

  • Has the generated information changed at all? (we are looking at the University’s records here, ie the evidential output of the University’s business)

6.2. Any program of review is intended to identify changes that might otherwise be overlooked. it is not intended to replace the informal changes and additions that need to be made to the scheme as and when your business requires it. The review process therefore, is no substitute for good, on-going, records management husbandry.

8. What help is available?

7.1. Further advice and guidance in respect of records management, data protection and freedom of information can be obtained by emailing or telephoning ext. 8209

7.2. The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) have prepared a high-level study of the functions and activities of universities which can be used as the starting point for preparing your information map.