Records Management in SharePoint
Online – information lifecycle model

Atle Skjekkeland


Updated:Sep 6, 2020

The value of information changes over time, and an information lifecycle model will help you to manage this in Microsoft Office 365. It is not only about preserving information assets, but also getting rid of redundant, outdated, and trivial (ROT) data and content. The benefits of getting rid of ROT include:

  • Improved search due to less search results clutter

  • Reduce eDiscovery and investigation efforts and costs due to less ROT

  • Free up storage since ROT that may be 50-70% of your data and content

For Office 365, an information lifecycle model is often implemented the following ways:

  • Retention labels to retain and dispose records to ensure compliance with internal and regulatory requirements

  • Automatic deletion of documents that has not been modified in X years using retention policies

  • Automatic deletion of non-record emails after X years using retention policies

  • Automatic deletion of Teams after X years using retention policies

I have previously blogged about the benefits of using metadata to improve search and records management with SharePoint Online. Metadata will also help you implement an information lifecycle model. Before I start to explain how to do this, let me share some examples of how such a model could look like.

  • Draft, Final

  • Temporary, Work-in-Progress, Final

  • Plan, Aquire, Maintain, Dispose, Apply

  • Plan, Specify, Enable, Create & Aquire, Maintain & Use, Archive & Retrieve, Purge

  • Create, Store, Retrieve, Use, Retire

If you don´t have an information lifecycle model in place, I recommend then to start with a simple model with just draft and final.

Using Metadata to manage information over the information lifecycle

Metadata helps you search and find the information you are looking for (e.g. business unit, process, country), but also manage this over time (e.g. retention, access). Machine learning and artificial intelligence will help you extract and apply metadata, but you still need metadata with master-lists of business area, process, information type, etc. If you have a corporate metadata model, then you have a standard way to describe unstructured information. If you want to improve findability, but also break down information silos, then the metadata values should be standardized using master data sources or controlled vocabularies.

When new SharePoint Online sites are created manually, or automatically when creating Teams, Planner, Yammer, and Stream, you want to ensure these sites get the relevant default metadata. All information stored on the site will then automatically inherit the metadata, which will improve search and allow you to automate records management in SharePoint Online. This is often implemented the following way for SharePoint Online.

  • Step 1: Establish a corporate metadata model with master data sources

  • Step 2: Connect SharePoint Term Store with master data sources

  • Step 3: Site Configuration / Site Provisioning to set default metadata on new sites

  • Step 4: Get metadata on pre-existing SharePoint Online sites

  • Step 5: Configure corporate and site search to show metadata as progressive filters

Site configuration for Office 365 SharePoint Online

Any of the above information lifecycle models may be implemented using the 5-steps. The benefits of implementing an information lifecycle model as metadata:

  • Set a draft or a similar value as document status as default metadata that files automatically inherent when being stored in O365

  • Establish accountabilities for classifying final information, e.g. final report, final presentation.

  • Improve search using document status as progressive filters, e.g. sort search results in draft vs final

  • Automate records management, e.g. compliance by design based on document type and status set to final as metadata

  • Automate the deletion of redundant, trivial, and obsolete information, e.g. draft Information not modified in 3 years is automatically deleted to reduce search clutter and increase storage capacity.

Feel free to contact us if you need help with this.

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