How to avoid complex retention requirements

retention requirements

The struggle against complexity

Trying to keep your retention schedules simple is an ongoing battle against the forces of complexity. And one of the major things that will hinder your plans to simplify your retention requirements will be your retention schedule stakeholders. People really do like to complicate things. Sometimes legitimately, sometimes not so much.

In her latest blog series, Siobhan King, Senior Consultant at Metataxis, reveals ways to ensure complex records management and retention requirements are accommodated.

Here’s part 4:

Valuing subject matter expertise…

Generally, your stakeholders are the best people to talk to regarding how long records should be kept, especially for those record types whose retention is determined by business needs over legal or regulatory requirements. Stakeholders are a great source of information about how the business works and what records are produced. But their insights shouldn’t be taken as law when it comes to the retention schedule. Stakeholders are not records managers and do not have the expertise to classify and manage records – this is where we add value. 

…and records management

When consulting with your organisation on the retention schedule, you will encounter users who are keen to press upon you the vital importance of their records. They are likely to explain the dire consequences that will occur if incorrect retention is applied to the records they produce. You can trust stakeholder direction a lot of the time, as they will often identify those exceptional record types that need to be kept longer because their early destruction will significantly impact the organisation. But occasionally, people make distinctions that don’t really matter from a retention management perspective.

Challenging conversations about values

When responding to the above concerns, there is, of course, a need to tread carefully. These can be challenging conversations to have. No one will respond well to the argument that they are not beautiful and unique snowflakes. Everyone needs to know that their contribution to an organisation is important. But the difference is that the retention value you place on the outputs of the activity is not a reflection of the value of the activity to the organisation.

challenging retention requirements

Dealing with complex retention requests

For some, simply acknowledging the complexity of business functions and activities is enough. This can be done verbally or incorporated into documentation. Appropriate places to capture this knowledge might be Retention Schedule class descriptions, Information Asset Registers, user guides or retention implementation plans. 

Some things you can counteract, some you have to accept. There are some common concerns or misconceptions you can head off at the pass if you’re prepared for them. Here is a list of some common issues I have encountered:

  1. Over-retention of records arising from poor internal processes which need to be amended
  2. Concerns about technical or practical application of retention, for example where records have insufficient metadata
  3. An over-estimation of the importance of their function and the records they produce within the organisation as a whole
  4. A lack of understanding of evidential requirements and/or personal data requirements
  5. Belief that retention will prevent uncommon or unlikely events which would cause problems for the organisation 

A matter of perspective

The small differences that people see in their work are important to ensure the job is done well. However, it’s not always important from a retention perspective, your job is to weight user expectations within the broader context for the organisation so you can create a simpler retention schedule.

Next time, we’ll look at the dreaded “just in case” requirement that often arises when having these conversations with stakeholders. 

Retention management can be challenging. Here at Metataxis, we’ve helped many organisations address these challenges. If you would like to learn more about practical data retention and records management, simply contact us.