Retention schedules made simple

Simplifying retention schedules for your big bucket data

In her latest blog series, Siobhan King, Senior Consultant at Metataxis, addresses the value of big bucket data retention and shares some ideas how to simplify your retention schedules to minimise complexities across your organisation.

Here’s part 3:

It’s not all about class

Organising your retention schedules into big buckets is not 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, the following could be considered to maintain simplicity for stakeholders:

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 choosing 7 years as a retention period for records that need to be kept for a moderately long period of time. Try to avoid having retention periods of 6 years, 8 years, or 9 years. These will involve much more effort to implement.


If you ask a stakeholder to define when a 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 how and when to mark something is closed. But we do not need to know the exact detail of the process to execute retention.

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

Disposal authorisers

Identifying an appropriate and reasonable number of people to be responsible for disposal review at the end of lifecycle for records is by far this most challenging aspect of any data retention schedule.

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 unlikely to be the same person. This is because, for example, 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.

retention schedules disposal authorisers

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, we recommend keeping these as simple as possible. Delete or archive may be sufficient for most organisations.

The question “what is an archive?” is a whole other conversation. Some organisations will deposit data to a national repository such as TNA, some will have their own in-house archive. Others 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

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.

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.

Demystifying data retention

Simplifying data retention for your stakeholders

In her latest blog series, Siobhan King, Senior Consultant at Metataxis, addresses the value of big bucket data retention and shares some top tips how to make it easier for your colleagues to understand.

Here’s part 2:

A lesson in transparency

Early in my career, a project manager who 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 data 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 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 to make 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 both 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.

Talk to stakeholders about their business processes

One of stakeholders’ top concerns regarding retention management is that retention rules mean records will be 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.

Balance organisational interests with data subject rights

If stakeholders are managing personal data, they may already be aware that 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 example, records which provide proof of ownership, benefits conferred or qualifications conferred).

Data retention 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.

Top 3 Takeaways from AIIM

03 July 2023 – Annual AIIM conference uncovered

The Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) Forum Europe took place on 20 June at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in central London.

This compelling annual conference was a great opportunity for the Metataxis team to catch up with long established friends and partners and also make some new ones.

Featuring series of presentations, keynote speeches, interactive panel discussions along with an innovative showcase exhibition, we got to hear the latest developments in the world of information management.

Noeleen Schenk, Director at Metataxis, shares her top three notable highlights from attending this year’s AIIM conference: 

Our top 3 takeaways from AIIM Forum Europe

1. Skills shortage

Although this is undoubtably an exciting time to work in the information industry, there is a notable skills shortage. The skills required from professionals is expanding into areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Microsoft 365, PowerApps, and strategic Information Management leadership. The skill expansion will undoubtably continue to expand as technology develops.

2. A focus on AI

Organisations are looking to AI to provide support for the more process orientated IM activities, like sensitivity reviews (some are already experimenting with AI to provide support and develop more use cases for support).

3. Compliance

Compliance is still a massive challenge for most organisations, with over 80% of them still relying on manual processes. This is an area as a profession we need to crack, as it is placing a heavy burden on our businesses.

Here at Metataxis, Information Management remains at the forefront of our business.

From information and content to records and data, our team of experts help organise, manage and control data in an efficient, secure and compliant way, in order to leverage knowledge and drive collaboration while protecting assets and removing waste.

We not only help organisations manage their information better, we also focus on how to get intelligence from it to drive collaboration, enhance governance, boost compliance and ultimately deliver business value.

Let us bring your information to life. Simply contact us.

To AI or IA ?

Do Artificial Intelligence tools need an Information Architecture?

In his latest blog, Marc Stephenson, Director at Metataxis, takes a look at the AI hype.

We know that the world has gone mad about Artificial Intelligence, or AI, ChatGTP and many other systems.

According to Wikipedia: “By January 2023, it had become the fastest-growing consumer software application in history, gaining over 100 million users”. That’s impressive!

Not a day goes by when I don’t read an article telling me that AI will either cause the apocalypse or solve all human problems. Of course, the reality will probably much less exciting. Don’t get me wrong – these AI tools are very impressive. I studied AI in the 1990’s as part of my MSc, and back then we were “only a few years from a sentient AI”. That was a somewhat optimistic prediction, but it’s clear that ChatGPT for example, is very good at solving some kind of problems (for me, one of the things ChatGPT does very well is write clear, grammatically correct English).

Another kind of hype

The AI hype is very similar to the search engine hype from the noughties. Back then, Google would remove all need for Information Architecture (IA) and Information Management (IM). We’d just use search for everything, right? Er no. Human information and knowledge is bit more complex and nuanced than that.

Who remembers the “Google Search Appliance” hardware? Just plug it into your server room and job done. No need for this difficult information architecture malarky.

Again, er, no. The issue is that a tool’s result is only as good as the person who uses the tool and the context in which they use it. In other words – the creation of the data model, training set, user interface, and the many surrounding processes, procedures, controls and governance measures, are actually very important.

Google Search Appliance

And as for dealing with bias, now that’s a whole blog in itself. What I’m saying is that if AI tools are to revolutionise how we use information, they will need an IA.

Well, for a while yet they will…

Of course, if you have any questions about information architecture, simply contact us.

Take your AIIM: AIIM Forum Europe 

27 June 2023 – Metataxis musings from the annual AIIM conference.

The Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) Forum Europe took place on 20 June in London.

Marc Stephenson, Director at Metataxis, was at this compelling one day conference and exhibition and shares his experiences from attending the event:

Along with my colleague, Noeleen Schenk, we both attended the AIIM Forum Europe at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in central London. Like all conferences, it was a mixture of the mundane, interesting, and surprising. Before Covid, attendee numbers seemed to be on the decline at many industry conferences, but post-covid, there is a real sense that people want to meet in person again.

The most interesting presentation for me at this year’s event was on the uptake of Microsoft Purview. Some insightful user research (albeit slightly self-selecting) was presented that showed many organisations are interested in Purview, but few had actually started the required work, let alone completed it. A case of the implementation of records management technology not being as easy as it seems. This certainly matches the Metataxis experience – developing a realistic records management regime requires a lot more than just applying technology.

The surprising part of the conference was that if we are to believe the range of vendor stalls, paper and it’s digitalising still plays a key role in the day-to-day operation of information management. One could argue that only the major scanning vendors are able to pay for AIIM exhibition stands, but of course they wouldn’t pay for the stand if there was no business benefit. I remember that the “paperless office” was “coming soon” when I was an undergraduate (many) years ago! What happened?! Do we really need all this paper still? Or are we still fighting the backlog?

The conference was of course very pre-occupied with AI and how that might affect the Information Management world.

Now that’s a topic for another blog coming soon…