FAQ – How many Record Types is too many?

When providing consultancy services for EDRMS one of the first records management items reviewed is the Record Types; how many, their purpose and their structure.  Commonly the consultant’s recommendations will include reducing the Record Types, which leads to the question of how many Record Types is too many?

The assumption is made there is an appropriate number of Record Types.  There is not.  However there are risks to the ease and quality of recordkeeping when excessive and unnecessary Record Types existing in the stockpile.

Record Types, like all records management items, require some maintenance, but generally they are low care in relation to managing items such as Locations and Profiles.  Occasionally the settings of Record Types are documented in a spreadsheet to protect against the risk of someone making changes the original settings being lost.  On the odd occasion Notes are wisely used to explain the purpose of a Record Type.  It is rare to find organisations with clear and documented principles for the creation of Record Types.

Without principles Administrators make individual decisions to create a new Record Type.  These are not always wise or logical decisions, and are frequently examples of unconscious incompetence.

An evidenced example:

  • Archive Box – for any type of records
  • Archive Box Southern – for records stored in Southern Region off site storage
  • Archive Box Albury – for records archived following the closure of this office.

A single Archive Box Record Type sufficed for all the records covered (and there were more examples of Archive Boxes for the rest of the state).  Use of the off-site storage Home Location in searches and reports provided a listing of those stored in the Southern Region.  Adding the Owner Location relevant to the Albury office provided those specific records.  The multiple Record Types added complexity and confusion in registering and finding records for the Records Manager, and especially for any incoming records staff.

Of greater concern is the complexity and confusion experienced by End Users when there are many File/Folder or Document Record Types to select from.  The following list is not unusual for End Users to experience:

  • Document
  • Physical Document
  • Email Document
  • Scanned Document
  • Ministerial Document
  • General Correspondence

It is useful to be able to easily specify the record formats and purpose to narrow searches, but that is the function of file extensions and classifications, therefore facilitating simplicity in Record Types.  There is a high risk the record is never created in the EDRMS because of the complex choice, and frequently the Users cannot be bothered making a choice each time, so just use one regardless of the labelling.

There is no “right” number of Record Types, or correct limit.  Start you decision process by determining if the proposed new Record Type will:

  • Add business value in the management of information.  For instance,
    • Unique record numbers (e.g. Contracts, Procurement)
    • Process specific fields for reporting (e.g. Ministerial, Contracts, Projects)
    • Facilitate efficiency in accessing and sharing of information within groups

Or,

  • Reduce risk to sensitive information.

Before committing to a new Record Type consider if an existing Record Type can be utilised by:

  • Providing the security and access requirements through
    • Classification
    • Default Owner Location or Copy Style settings
    • Additional fields can be added to an additional tab without impacting other Users
    • Reporting requirements can be met through a well-constructed (and saved) search

Most importantly consider what your User will view.  Take a walk in their shoes.  Are they likely to be confused by the choices they experience?

It’s very easy to create a new Record Type, but when they hinder good recordkeeping practice they are a legacy that confuses utilising information forever more.

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