In a three-part blog series, we are looking a look at the value that records managers can bring to the implementation of EDRMS. In this second installment, we dive a little deeper into the benefits of applying information architecture (IA), metadata, and taxonomy to EDRMS.
What determines the success or failure of an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS)? Like many software tools, EDRMS is only as good as the effort put into configuring the system. You can buy the best EDRMS tool on the market, but a poor setup and implementation will render it unpopular or downright unusable.
Getting EDRMS "right" requires the use of three distinct information tools: information architecture (IA), metadata and taxonomy. As records managers, our background in the use of these tools puts us in a great position to ensure the success of an EDRMS implementation.
Here is an overview of the role and benefits of each of these tools when applied to EDRMS:
For the purposes of this discussion, IA "focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks" (usability.gov). One of the best ways to think about IA is as a blueprint for the information stored within the EDRMS. Just as the blueprint of a house will ensure you don’t end up with two kitchens, no bathroom, and a foundation that won’t support your building, a well-developed IA is essential to building a strong and coherent information system that accommodate users of the EDRMS.
Metadata is the descriptive information assigned to specified information sources and later used to locate and retrieve that information. If IA is the blueprint for a house, then metadata could be thought of as your plumbing, and the information in the EDRMS is the water in the pipes. Robust metadata will help the information flow to all the users whether they’re looking for a hot shower in the bathroom, or to put a load of cold laundry in the wash. Good plumbing gets the right water to the right place at the right time and good metadata is essential to getting the right information to the right person at the right time.
Taxonomies refer to the classification schemes which are familiar to all records managers. With EDRMS, you can take a number of different approaches, including function-based classification or the "big bucket" approach. For example, a taxonomy applied within an EDRMS might classify a document as follows: "Human Resources" > "Hiring" > "Competitions" > "2014 - Manager of Sales". Taxonomy adds value by showing us the inherent relationships between information stored within the EDRMS. It is a solid foundation that helps us organize, access and manage information independently of how the information might be architected or which metadata has been applied.
Each information tool has a unique – and essential – role to play in the design and functioning of the EDRMS. Information architecture provides the high-level blueprint; metadata is invaluable for enabling successful document searches; and taxonomy holds all the information together within a sound RIM framework.
In our next post we’ll offer practical steps to get you started when applying these tools to your own EDRMS implementation.
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