Get stuck in! A six part series on big bucket retention. Part three.

Part Three

Big Buckets: It's not just about class

Not just about class

Organising your Retention Schedule into big buckets is not just about trying to create large all-encompassing retention classes. While this is of course a really important step, there are a number of other parts to your retention schedule that you will want to simplify. Simplifying all aspects of your Schedule reduces the number of factors, which in turn reduces complexity.  

When talking to your stakeholders you should have at the back of your mind the following things that you want to nudge into a shape of your choosing:

Retention periods

If you can, try to corral your stakeholders to agree to a small number of retention period types in your schedule. There are common regulatory time periods that can help you choose which ones you want to use. For example Financial records are usually kept for 7 years, as is the catch all retention mechanism the Limitation Act. So try to nudge people towards choose 7 years as a retention period for records that need to be kept for a moderately long period of time. Try to  avoid having a  retention periods of 7 years, 8 years,  or 9 years. These will involve much more effort to implement.


If you ask a stakeholder when the business process is over they can be very specific for example “the Quality Review of the inspection process is completed once the B488 form has had its second review by the fourth tier quality reviewer”. When really a trigger such as “end of quality review” would suffice.

Specific triggers like this will make your retention schedule very complex, and extremely difficult when you try to apply this to systems. We can trust that the people doing the work would know when and how to mark something is closed. But we don’t need to know the exact detail of the process to execute retention.

Having more general triggers, say “end of programme/project” or “contract closure” can be really useful as they can be used in a number of different contexts. So try to have as few triggers as you can, and try to make them broad

Disposal authorisers

This is by far this most challenging aspect of any schedule, identifying an appropriate and reasonable number of people to be responsible for disposal review at the end of lifecycle for records. The challenge arises from needing someone with a sufficiently senior role to make a decision, while being operational enough to understand the content of the records to be disposed of.

Unless your organisation is really small, this is really unlikely to be the same person. This is because, say,  the head of HR is concerned with governance and strategy and not likely to know the operational ins and outs of say, recruitment campaigns and applicants.

Traditionally this has meant that there is some form of delegation of decision making to the subject matter experts. Or conversely some sign off of decisions are made by the head of department. This is a frustratingly difficult aspect of a retention schedule to simplify. Setting up workflows to incorporate a lot of people is really difficult and costly, so it is important to try to keep the number of authorisers low even though this is challenging.

Disposal actions

As with the above, keep these as simple as possible. Delete or Archive may be sufficient for most organisations.

The question of what an archive is  whole other conversation. Some organisations will deposit to a national repository such as TNA, some will have their own in-house archive. Some will have records that have long-term value and need to be kept permanently even if the organisation does not have an archive.

Minimisation leads to simplification

Now. When your retention periods, triggers, actions and authorisers are simplified something beautiful happens. With a smaller number of factors in play, it makes it much easier to lump record types into much larger retention classes. This makes big bucket retention that much more possible! 

So don’t just go straight for classes when simplifying your Schedule. Think about minimising all the moving parts as well. It will make things much easier in the long run.

Next time I will talk about dealing with the complexity that people will inevitably want to introduce to your schedule and how to deal with “snowflake” requests.

If you want to talk to us at Metataxis about retention management get in touch using the contact form on the right or email us today

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