Blog

Free webinars with Leadership Through Data

Metataxis is very pleased to be participating in a series of free webinars offered by Leadership Through Data (LTD). Metataxis Technical Director, Marc Stephenson will be talking about Information Architecture at 13:00 on the 4th of November 2021. The session is called Design of Information Architecture within Microsoft 365 & SharePoint where Marc will be discussing one of the most important but sometimes least understood aspects of ensuring a successful Microsoft 365 roll-out.

An information architecture is a crucial initial step to the successful implementation of any information system. You wouldn’t start building a house with an architecture and the same logic applies to building a system. A good information architecture requires that content, technology, people, business requirements, and cultural factors are all considered at the same time. To find out more about this you can book here.

This is just one of a series of exciting free webinars LTD are providing over the coming months. Focusing on topics relating to Microsoft 365 and Information Management, these webinars draw on the broad expertise of the trainers and partners working with LTD. This means that there are some fantastic opportunities to about anything from training methods with LTD Managing Director Jacqueline Stockwell, to hearing about the latest releases from M365 MVP Sara Fennah. A list of some of the webinars are listed below:

Or you can visit the Leadership Through Data site for a full list of webinars on offer.

 

Part two

Demystifying retention for your stakeholders

Records classification

A lesson in transparency

Early in my career a project manager I worked with on a retention project said she found me to be mercurial when it came to advising stakeholders on retention. Flattering as it was to be referred to as “the oracle” on retention I was rather mortified to learn I was seen as something akin to a cold and unpredictable power dispensing mystical advice. 

Over the next few months I introduced greater transparency to my approach, explaining why I was making the recommendations I made. Three months later the same colleague proudly told me she could always pick what sort of advice I would give users and even felt confident giving advice on retention herself. Result!

Demystifying retention and is really important to our colleagues and stakeholders. Demystifying how we arrive at the retention periods we advise for our users is probably one of the biggest things you can do to make retention much more approachable. Here are some tips on making your process for retention management much easier for colleagues to understand.

Explain the different drivers for retention

Explain to your colleagues that retention schedules are shaped by what the law requires and what the business requires. This may be disappointing news to some stakeholders who would prefer a hard and fast answer on how long things should be kept encoded in law. But business value is the biggest conversation to have with stakeholders. If people understand the basic principle of assigning a business value up front, the rest of the conversation will got a lot easier.

One of stakeholders’ top concerns about retention management is that retention rules will mean records get deleted before the end of a business process. Projects are a classic example of this. Stakeholders might see a retention period of, say 6 years, and fear that records related to projects that run for decades will be deleted before the project has ended. This is the perfect opportunity to put stakeholders straight about retention triggers and the need to identify when the business process ends. This can be followed up with a discussion about how long records are needed after the business process ends.

If stakeholders are managing personal data they may already have an awareness they need to manage this in line with GDPR.  This stakeholder group is probably the most frustrated to learn that the GDPR doesn’t tell us exactly how long we can keep personal data, but uses slightly evasive legal terms like “legitimate purpose” and “reasonable” which can be somewhat subjective. 

Sometimes you may have to tell stakeholders that the period of time they propose to keep personal data is unreasonable e.g. 20 years for former customers. It may be unreasonable because they can’t point to a legitimate business reason to keep things that long, because it’s a real outlier in terms of industry practice, or because if you asked the person on the street what they thought of the retention practices they might find it unacceptable.

Conversely, sometimes you need to reassure a stakeholder that it is perfectly acceptable to retain certain types of personal data for a long time because it protects the rights of the organisation, and more importantly it protects the rights of the data subjects themselves (for examples records which provide proof of ownership, benefits conferred or qualifications conferred).

Counter to the idea records management is a dark art, there are standards for retention management.  I’m constantly heartened by the fact that the more records managers I work with, the more consistent I find the advice and guidance we all give on retention. Making our stakeholders aware of the fact there are some industry standards records retention rules helps.

Many senior managers will ask what their competitors or equivalent agencies do for retention and this is where any review of retention schedules you have done for the your industry comes in handy.

Like with parenting consistency is key. Of course you will be consistent in the retention advice you give, no matter who asks. However, situations sometimes arise where retention decisions are made through politics, not process. That’s life. Occasionally records managers have to accept decisions that are made much higher up the chain which aren’t necessarily what’s best for the organisation. 

Of course I would not advise getting bogged down in a battle you’re not going to win. But it’s important to voice your recommendations and concerns about risks. It means your organisation is making an informed decision. And it shows you to be consistent in your approach. There’s nothing wrong with being predictable!

We want to be transparent and fair in our construction of retention schedules. Doing things openly and being consistent helps build better relationships with our stakeholders. And goes some of the way to winning hearts and minds along the way.

But there is also an opportunity here to nudge the shape of your retention schedule in a direction of your choosing. I will talk about this more in my next post. 

If you have any questions or comments you want to share please use the contact form on the right or email us info@metataxis.com.

Part One

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

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 Boeing 737-900ER”.

Both are correct, but the first person is someone who defines things in broad categories, a lumper.  The second person is a splitter, someone who defines things in smaller categories. Referring to people as splitters and lumpers is common in biological sciences, particularly evolutionary science where 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, 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 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 have a tendency 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 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 management please use the contact form on the right or email us info@metataxis.com.

Out of control growth of records and documents held on SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and other applications is a problem common for many. The Compliance Centre provides records and Information Managers with a great toolset to help manage retention in Microsoft 365. But while what is on offer is very sophisticated, it’s not always entirely intuitive. It’s a steep learning curve, especially if you happen to come from an information industry background as opposed to a technical one.

There’s a lot of advice and guidance from SharePoint practitioners, which is really helpful but sometimes assumes a great deal of familiarity with Microsoft products. So we put together a few short demo videos providing an explanation of retention management in the Compliance Centre and how you might want to apply this – from a records management perspective. 

You can watch the snippet of our first demo below or for the full video and access to the full series visit our Youtube channel. We hope you find these useful to add to your learning and if you want to ask us any questions about the Compliance Centre please use our contact form on the right. 

AssociateNightbanner

It’s been a long time since we have had the opportunity to meet up with our associates, partners or clients face to face. So we were absolutely delighted to see so many at our Associate Night at the Edinboro Castle last week. There were many familiar faces there, some who we haven’t seen in over a year. And then there were those who we have only ever spoken via screens who we were excited to meet in person.

For some of us it was our first proper night out since early 2020. After over a year of restrictions we’ve learned to treasure what was previously something we took for granted; meeting colleagues at the pub for a good catch up. While we’ve all managed to continue to work remotely surprisingly well, nothing replaces the immediacy of a hug, a smile, or just enjoying being in the same space.

We hope those who attended our Associates Night enjoyed themselves as much as we at Metataxis did. And we hope that we get to see our friends and associates again very soon.