Taking big-bucket retention schedules to the next level

Atle Skjekkeland


Many records management programs are not scalable. They have been developed to meet all business and regulatory requirements for record keeping and disposition, and the result is a program that can´t be scaled or automated across an enterprise. Perfection has become the enemy of progress.

In my blog post: 7 Steps to Modernzie Your Records Management Program for the Digital Age, I described why organizations need to go for big-bucket retention schedules, minimize the use of event-based retention, eliminate disposition reviews, etc. These steps makes it possible to scale and automate records management across a large enterprise. It is about making your records management program more practical and future-proof without creating any compliance risks.

Success requires records to be identified, captured, and classified. This may be automated based on storage location user, metadata, and/or machine learning, but this is not easy to achieve if there are a lot of retention requirements, e.g. framework agreements have to be kept for X years; purchase orders and invoices have to be kept for Y years; and shipping documentation has to be kept for Z years.

The Big Bucket approach involves grouping records together based on similar business processes and events to the greatest extent possible. Here is a way to take big bucket retention to the next level:


All records with minimum retention requirements are stored permanently. Only records with regulatory requirements for maximum retention have non-permanent retention schedules, e.g. keep for 10 years and destroy.

This means that the above framework agreements, purchase orders, invoices, and shipping documents are kept permanently unless there are regulatory requirements for deletion. Most regulatory requirements for maximum retention are found in privacy regulations like the GDPR. Relevant records cover information about the user (e.g. resume and performance reviews that have to be deleted X days/years after the user leaves the organization), not information by the user (e.g. report and plans that can be kept as business records permanently).


  • Easier for users to declare records since a lot of areas will only have one retention schedule with permanent retention. Records declaration can then be done in “one-click” by users.

  • Easier to automate records management based on storage location, metadata, and/or machine learning.

  • When having implemented an effective records management program across a large enterprise, you can then set retention for non-records, e.g. documents not modified in 3 years will be automatically deleted. This improves search by reducing search results clutter, it frees up storage by deleting redundant, obsolete, and trivial information (ROT), and it reduces e-discovery costs since less time has to be spent going through non-relevant information.

  • Future usage of machine learning and artificial intelligence will be able to use the records as good qualify information to add value, minimize risks, reduce costs, and identify new opportunities.


  • Over-storage of records will impact your storage costs, but please note that only 20-25% of information may have business value, and only 5-10% of information may be subject to regulatory records keeping requirement. The majority of your information is often ROT, and the ability to get rid of this will make a much bigger impact.

The above approach means that most processes will only have to have one bucket: Permanent Retention. Some processes like HR will still require several buckets due to privacy regulations with maximum retention requirements, e.g. keep job applications for X days/year and delete, keep resumes as long as the user is working for us + Y years and delete.

If implementing this in Microsoft 365 with the new Records Management solution, it still makes sense to create different labels for records with permanent retention, e.g. Accounting Records with permanent retention, Sales Records with permanent retention, Marketing Records with permanent retention. This will make it easier to find and manage the records across the enterprise.

Please feel free to contact us if you need help modernizing your records management program for the digital age. Most engagements starts with a proof-of-concept for relevant Office 365 compliance features.

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