Functional classification. Record-keeping professionals’ difficulties and their handling in maintenance and use of FC in Finnish organisations

Publication Date20 July 2015
AuthorSaara Packalén
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance
Functional classication
Record-keeping professionals’ difculties and
their handling in maintenance and use of FC
in Finnish organisations
Saara Packalén
School of Information Sciences (SIS), University of Tampere,
Tampere, Finland
Purpose – The purpose of this paper was to uncover the various difculties that record-keeping
professionals face when they maintain and use functional classication (FC) in Finnish public-sector
organisations. An additional aim was to nd out how they handle those difculties in the course of their
Design/methodology/approach In all, 22 record-keeping professionals, at three Finnish
public-sector organisations, were interviewed. The data generated were then analysed with qualitative
Findings – The study identied several difculties that record-keeping professionals encounter in
maintaining and using FC in various ways. In the main, however, the difculties were not perceived as
substantial. The participants had several methods of handling the difculties in carrying out their work.
The study also pointed to a clash between maintenance of FC systems and needs in other contexts of
their use.
Research limitations/implications – The difculties faced and the means of handling them were
evaluated only from interviews with record-keeping professionals at three Finnish public-sector
organisations. Observation of real-world situations or performance of usability tests might have
highlighted different difculties or even revealed unidentied issues.
Practical implications – Concrete improvements could be performed in organisations for better use
of FC. The difculties identied could be addressed also in FC design and in user training. The results
of the study are of relevance for future research into FC’s use.
Originality/value – The study highlights difculties faced in maintaining and using FC systems.
Identication of the various perceptions linked to maintenance and concrete use could be of importance
in implementation of FC in organisations.
Keywords Finland, Functional classication, Public-sector organisations,
Record-keeping professionals
Paper type Research paper
Today, functional classication (FC) is the predominant method in records organisation,
and it is used in numerous organisations’ records management, internationally. Records
are generated as byproducts of actions, and they are evidence of those activities. FC
The author would like to thank the Memornet doctoral programme, co-ordinated by the School of
Information Sciences of Finland’s University of Tampere for funding her associated doctoral
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 28 October 2014
Revised 21 February 2015
Accepted 1 June 2015
RecordsManagement Journal
Vol.25 No. 2, 2015
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/RMJ-10-2014-0043
links them to the context of their creation (Shepherd and Yeo, 2003, pp. 73-74). FC is the
preferred method among record-keeping professionals (Orr, 2005;Smith, 2007, p. 54),
and from a records-management perspective, it is perceived as “simple and easy to
follow” (Connelly, 2007, p. 21). Previous studies have, however, uncovered difculties
with the method. Problems with usability have been noted in both Finnish (Henttonen
and Kettunen, 2011;Seitsonen, 2010) and international (Alberts et al., 2010;Calabria,
2006;Gunnlaugsdottir, 2012) studies. Earlier studies of the use of FC have focused on
testing its usability in retrieval or ling of documents (Calabria, 2006), the extent of FC’s
use in organisations (Gunnlaugsdottir, 2012) and on understanding of the “function”
concept and function-related terminology (Foscarini, 2012,2009;Orr, 2005). These
studies reveal practitioners’ conceptual confusion and lack of models for analysing
functions and creating the relevant schemes (Foscarini, 2009;Orr, 2005;Alberts et al.,
2010), their use of other methods instead (Gunnlaugsdottir, 2012) and difculties in
selecting the appropriate class in the classication scheme (Calabria, 2006). A few
suggestions have been offered to improve usability: FC systems designed to be more
culture-specic (Foscarini, 2012), user proles (Henttonen and Kettunen, 2011) and
item-level classication (Bak, 2012).
Function-based classication is used in diverse record-keeping cultures and in
multiple contexts of application accordingly. The variety of difculties faced in the
various contexts is unknown. The aim of the study described here was to describe what
was perceived as difcult in the use of FC in Finnish public-sector organisations in its
various contexts of use. The study focused on difculties faced in maintaining FC
systems and in their three contexts of use: at the point of registration, in records retrieval
and in ling of records. The issues identied are referred to as “difculties”. To proceed,
record-keeping professionals need some way of handling these. Consequently, the study
was undertaken to highlight the difculties in maintaining and using FC in various
contexts in Finnish public-sector organisations. Additionally, attempts were made to
ascertain what methods record-keeping professionals use to handle those difculties.
A core objective is to inspire others to research designs that increase awareness and
promote better understanding of FC in various record-keeping cultures.
Literature review
FC is a widely used and accepted method for records’ organisation. Records result from
functions, and classication based on functions connects them to the functions and
activities that generated them (Shepherd and Yeo, 2003, pp. 73-74). In an electronic
environment, it links records to their context, which might not otherwise be obvious to
subsequent users. A function-based structure of classication helps people understand
organisations’ business activities better and affords transparency of those activities
(Park and Neal, 2012). One feature for which it is valued is its status as a stable
foundation for records classication (Smith, 2007,p.56;Tough, 2006, p. 17) relative to
other methods, such as classication based on organisational structure or records’
contents (Smith, 2007, pp. 54-55). It is also benecial for its application in appraisal
(Smith, 2007, p. 56).
Several studies describe processes for implementation of FC systems and the
practical efforts involved (Smyth, 2005;Williams, 2005;Gregory, 2005;Bedford and
Morelli, 2006). Deployment of an electronic records management system (ERMS) using
FC is a huge cultural shift for employees, one in which management support has a
Use of FC in

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