February 28, 2017

Building a File Plan Part 2: Mapping Your Data to the File Plan

5 minute read

This is Part 2 in a series of 6 posts around creating and executing an effective file plan for your organization. Part 1 can be found here.

As we move through this blog series focused on creating a usable, automated and simple file plan we will build the "house" in steps until there is a finished and beautiful looking building. With that in mind, today's post will cover mapping the data to the file plan. Mapping the data to the file plan is like building the support beams in a building.

So now that our retention schedule is built, we have to identify where the records actually live. This is obviously a crucial step and the first one in turning our retention schedule into a true file plan.

Collect Information

Just like with our retention schedule, we have to make sure that all of the organization's information is being considered. Again, we want to lean on our key stakeholders in each department. In this case, some good people to bring in would be the department owner, someone who works directly with the data and IT.

We are creating a map of all our files, which can seem like a daunting task; and it can be if the right resources are not leveraged. So long as we have executive buy-in and the authority to move the project along, the bulk of the work involved in this step can be appropriately divided.

The key to this step is inventorying the the files in a systematic manner. All departments should be following the same procedure regarding collection and reporting. By providing a template that each team can use, you can avoid confusion and inefficiency.


Similar to step one, we always needs to stop and analyze each process. Remember, we need to be constantly evaluating to determine if the processes that are in place are truly effective. This entire file plan process is an opportune time to review your organization's entire information governance program.

We need a thorough understanding of WHAT records are created, WHY they are created and HOW they are used. An analysis begins with a careful consideration of the following questions:

  • Who creates the records?
  • Who uses the records?
  • What is the volume of records created?
  • How long do records remain current?
  • How many people need access to the records?
  • Which records are confidential?
  • Which are the vital records?

There are not necessarily set answers to these questions. Effective analysis requires that a common-sense approach be taken. The goal is to make a new system that works, not one that just looks good on paper. Analysis is the process of reviewing all information which has been collected, manipulating that information within the functional and operational requirements of the business, and then drawing conclusions.

The most efficient and economical file plan is one that works well and is easily understood by its users. Very often the simplest method is best.

Next Steps

Once our analysis of the file mapping is complete, we need to again engage in a thorough review process. It is especially critical in these early steps that we do not have any errors and that we are ensuring all parties are on the same page.

Who is involved and how many rounds of review will depend on your organizational structure, but as we have mentioned in the past, the higher up you can get buy-in, the better.

Next week, we will discuss classification and the important decisions that need to be made.

Click here to read Part 3

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