Hierarchical Functional Classification Systems’ Use – End-users’ Viewpoint

Saara Packalén


In this paper, findings of aspects from the authors’ dissertation study ‘Functional classification systems in Finnish public sector’ (forthcoming) will be presented, and the associated ideas developed further. The aim of the paper, motivated by the dissertation study, is to build a solid foundation for future study that will focus on users and previously identified usability issues in function-based records classification. The paper reviews and discusses the relevant literature to identify and state detailed research questions for the study.

Function-based records classification holds its most relevance in adding contextual information about records’ origin to individual records (Shepherd & Yeo, 2003, pp. 73–74). Adding the context information is important especially when working in a digital environment. In a practical manner, the application of hierarchical functional classification systems results in several difficulties. Inconsistencies in concept-definitions, various understandings of function-related concepts, weak theoretical foundation, and various usability issues have been revealed (see eg. Alberts et al. 2010; Foscarini, 2009, 2012; Gunnlaugsdottir, 2012; Ifould & Joseph, 2016).

Mostly, the same conclusions were drawn in the authors’ forthcoming dissertation study. In Finnish recordkeeping context, records professionals did not have much theoretical understanding for function-based records classification (Packalén & Henttonen, 2016a). Records professionals were the main users of classification systems, and they had contradictory expectations for other users of those systems (Packalén, 2016). Even the professionals themselves faced various difficulties in management and use of functional classification systems in organizations (Packalén, 2015). In addition, in part, ambiguous and abstract labels were used in title wordings of functional classification systems. Also, titles did not follow a specific logic throughout a classification scheme. (Packalén & Henttonen, 2016b.)

Today, and increasingly in the future, end-users are expected to manage (incl. to classify) the records they create and handle in electronic records management systems. Hence, the paper presents an important arena for future study: functional classification systems from end-users’ viewpoint. The study will be situated in Finnish recordkeeping culture, where pro-active recordkeeping strategy is applied, and registration process ensures that records professionals have an important role in using the classifications.


Alberts, I., Schellinck, J., Eby, C., & Marleau, Y. (2010). Bridging Functions and Processes for Records Management. The Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, 34(4), 365–390.
Foscarini, F. (2009). Function-based Records Classification Systems: An Exploratory Study of Records Management Practices in Central Banks. Faculty of Graduate Studies. Library, Archival and Information Studies. Vancouver: University of British Columbia. Thesis.
Foscarini, F. (2012). Understanding Functions: An Organisational Culture Perspective. Records Management Journal, 22(1), 20–36.
Gunnlaugsdottir, J. (2012). Functional Classification Scheme for Records – FCS: A Way to Chart Documented Knowledge in Organizations. Records Management Journal, 22(2), 116-129.
Ifould, P. & Joseph, P. (2016). User Difficulties Working with a Business Classification Scheme: A Case Study. Records Management Journal, 26(1), 21-37.
Packalén, S. (2015). Functional classification: Recordkeeping professionals’ difficulties and their handling in maintenance and use of FC in Finnish organisations. Records Management Journal, 25(2), 166–182.
Packalén, S. (2016). Recordkeeping professionals’ perceptions of users and use of functional classification systems in the Finnish public sector. Information Research, 21(1), paper memo3.
Packalén, S. & Henttonen, P. (2016a). Recordkeeping professionals’ understanding of and justification for functional classification: Finnish public sector organizational context. Archival Science, 16(4), 403–419.
Packalén, S. & Henttonen, P. (2016b). Ambiguous labels: Facet analysis of class names in Finnish public-sector functional classification systems. Knowledge Organization, 43(7) 490–501.
Shepherd, E. & Yeo, G. (2003). Managing Records: A Handbook of Principles and Practice. London: Facet.


Saara Packalén is a University Instructor in the Faculty of Communication Sciences (COMS) at the University of Tampere, in Finland. She teaches Records and Archives Management in the Degree Programme in Information Studies and Interactive Media.

She has a M.Soc.Sc in information studies. Before her current teaching assignment, she was a Doctoral Student at the University of Tampere for almost five years. Her research interest is in function-based approach to records organization. Her forthcoming dissertation study focuses on functional classification systems in Finnish public sector. Before starting her doctoral studies, she has worked at the Tampere University Library.