Big bucket data retention

big bucket data retention

Like it or lump it. Classification for big bucket data retention

In her latest blog series, Siobhan King, Senior Consultant at Metataxis, addresses the value of big bucket data retention and how to ensure complex records management requirements are accommodated.

Here’s part 1:

The difference between splitters and lumpers

Two people look up at the sky and see a plane: The first person points up and says: “Look! It’s a jet plane”. The second person responds: “Well actually, it’s a Boeing 737-900ER.”

Both are correct.
The first person is someone who defines things in broad categories, a lumper.
The second person is someone who defines things in smaller categories, a splitter.

Referring to people as ‘splitters’ or ‘lumpers’ is common in biological sciences, particularly evolutionary science where the classification of species depends on the importance placed on minor differences between individual animals. In the fossil record, this has led to some traps for splitters, who have created numerous hominid classifications where we might be looking at differences in size, age, gender, and health within a single species. Whereas lumpers are criticised for accepting too many variations and therefore lumping different species within one category, as in the case of Homo habilis.

Classification for records management

This kind of problem in classification is not, however, just the preserve of the sciences. It is something most records managers must consider when devising a retention schedule. Especially if they are aiming for “big bucket retention” for their schedule. On the face of it, you might think that big bucket retention would lend itself well to those who are better at lumping categories of records together. But creating meaningful large categories requires a good understanding of the details that dictate which small differences are significant and which ones are not.

Learning to be lumpers

Records management as a profession tends to attract people who like detail. You’d think this means our work requires us to be splitters. But the nature of our work increasingly requires us to be lumpers, as the scale of records management means we cannot practically apply retention rules and business classifications at such a granular level. This does mean that we, as a profession, tend to create schedules that are more complex. The very ambition of having a simple, big bucket schedule in our complex working environment is a bold one.

Compromise between simplicity and complexity

In the end, it’s a constant process of compromise between the need for simplification and the need to ensure more complex records management requirements are accommodated.

Lumping records into “big buckets” does not mean we ignore the detail. In fact, the detail must be understood to help us determine which records can be classed separately, and which can be safely lumped together.

This all sounds very challenging to do correctly, especially once you start to involve stakeholder who always make things complicated!  To provide some advice, I’ve reflected on the years of experience writing and implementing retention schedules and I hope you’ll find these posts a much more practical approach to the real-world issues you will encounter while creating or re-creating your retention schedule.

Of course, if you have any questions about practical retention and records management, simply contact us.