Step 1: Know What Records You Have:  Maintain an Accurate Information Inventory

The first step in managing your records is to know what records you have, by maintaining an up-to-date information inventory for your unit. Records are categorized by the work activities in which they created and used, so a list of your office’s responsibilities and processes is also a basic list of your records categories.

Every office’s activities are a combination of core responsibilities unique to your office, defining your purpose and mission, and common administrative activities found in every office – human resources, finances & budgeting, etc.  Records of common administrative functions are easiest to categorize using the existing records classes in the University Records Classification Scheme and Retention Schedules (WatClass). For records of your office’s core responsibilities, you can either start with WatClass or your own existing documentation, such as a strategic plan, to identify your records categories. In either case, you can contact the University Records Manager for assistance with your inventory, and with matching your records categories to those of WatClass.

Your information inventory can be completed through the following steps:

  • Review the way records are categorized in WatClass, and how your office’s responsibilities are categorized in your planning documentation.
  • Use the Records Inventory Checklist  to identify your main records categories.
    • The checklist is an MS Word table, which you can copy/import to Excel or a database manager, if you prefer.
  • Delete the checklist rows for records which aren’t found in your unit, and – after consulting with the University Records Manager – add additional rows if you have records which don’t fall within an existing records class.
    • The University Records Manager can prepare a draft retention schedule for these records, when necessary.
  • Review all of your records storage locations – file cabinets, shared drives, SharePoint sites, etc. – and make notes on the types of records (i.e., the activities they support) stored and their significant characteristics (format, date span, extent or volume, arrangement/organization);
  • Summarize this additional information – especially the specific storage locations – in the inventory checklist.
    • If you have multiple filing cabinets of hard-copy records, it’s recommended that you assign each cabinet an ID number so they can be uniquely identified by a combination of room number & filing cabinet number.
  • If necessary, add additional rows to your checklist to include details on sub-categories of records that fall within the same WatClass records class.
    • Your sub-categories might correspond to set of related folders on a shared drive, document libraries in SharePoint, or groups of related hard-copy files in your file cabinet.

The final product of your inventory will be a table, spreadsheet or database listing your record categories, their characteristics, storage location, and supporting systems/applications.

Introduction to the University of Waterloo Classification and Records Retention Schedule (WatClass)

As described in greater detail elsewhere on this website, WatClass categorizes all University records under twelve broad functions: three relating to the University core mission and activities, and nine supporting functions. You should keep these twelve categories in mind as the broad categories that all of your records fit into.

The three core functions are:

  • Research Management: research ethics, administration, etc.
  • Student Management: recruitment, admissions, transcripts, financial aid, student discipline, etc.
  • Teaching & Learning:  calendars, program development & reviews, student work & grading, etc.

The remaining nine supporting functions are:

  • Administration: office operations, correspondence, planning, legal records, policies, etc.
  • Campus Services: Non-academic services: athletics & recreation, parking, WatCard, etc.
  • University Relations & Advancement: marketing, communications, advancement, etc.
  • Finance: accounts payable & receivable, P-card transactions, banking, audit, procurement, etc.
  • Governance: records of the Board of Governors & Senate, and their committees.
  • Health, Safety, & Security: conflict management & human rights, health & counselling, occupational health, safety, police services, etc.
  • Human Resources: faculty & staff appointments, employee records, promotion & tenure, pension & benefits, etc.
  • Information Management: freedom of information & privacy, information systems development & management, information security, records management.
  • Property & Facilities: buildings & space management, capital construction, asset management, utilities, equipment & supplies, etc.

Your Collections or Storage Locations of University Records 

Since University records include all information formats and media, your review should include:

  • Data in enterprise systems for which your unit is responsible;
  • Information in databases or other applications which are used only in your office (e.g., MS Access or FileMaker databases & applications);
  • Digital records stored on shared drives, in SharePoint, the WCMS (for web access), or the OnBase document management system. These can include documents, spreadsheets, digital images and video, and any other types of information you use for University administration and communications;
  • Email stored in individuals’ Outlook accounts which relate to your unit’s official responsibilities;
  • Images, video, or other multimedia content to be used in presentations, special events, web content, social media postings, etc.;
  • Social media content (text, images, and video) created for your office and posted to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc.;
  • Hard-copy files & other documentation stored in file cabinets, on shelves, closets, or other storage locations.