What the heck is "classification"?

By Urs Raas

I have been discussing the meaning of the term “classification” with some of my colleagues at HP.  Coming from a records management background I had a very clear notion of it being a hierarchical structure of terminology and rules that can be used to express and preserve the business context in which information was created, so that it is recognizable for people who were not actually involved in the creation of the information and also to automate the application of records management rules.

It turns out that there are more interpretations of the term in the information management industry alone.  Security experts talk about classification as a system of security levels and privacy markings.  Researchers use classification as a tool to assign one or more categories or topics to a piece of information, and IT specialists use classification to talk about primary, secondary and offline storage.

Of course my view was tainted from being too close to the records management use of the term, and suddenly it became clear to me why I sometimes thought that people “didn’t get it”; it’s because we use the same term but talk about different things.

In HP Information Management we provide solutions for all the different meanings of classification, so I think we need to start qualifying the term when we talk about them.  My suggestion is “business classification” for the records management use, “security classification” for the data protection use, “subject classification” for the categorization and I am still looking for a qualifier for the storage medium use.  No doubt some of you out there have different ideas and I would be happy to be educated.


(anon) | ‎08-29-2008 06:49 AM

I'll add another example in the health industry to complicate the subject of the term classification.

ICD-10 is the international system for diagnosis classifications for diseases and related health problems that is used for coding in medical records. It is referred to as a classification system.

The standard in the health industry for clinical terminology and nomenclature is SNOMED CT (Systemised nomenclature for medicine, clinical terms). It is an heirarchically structured, multilingual set of clinical terms, relationships and concepts that is machine and human readable. SNOMED CT comprises half a million clinical terms and over a million relationships. SNOMED CT is also cross linked to the the ICD-10 classification system.

So maybe these can be categorised as subject classification. In any case ICD-10 and SNOMED CT are an intrinsic (or should be) part of the process of information management in health care.


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