A Skeptic Takes a New Look at Autoclassification

By Bryant Duhon posted 02-06-2012 15:13


The following is a guest blog post by Mark Diamond, CEO of Contoural, Inc. and speaker at an upcoming AIIM Webinar.

Join Mark next on February 15 at 2 PM (EST) to:

Take the Guesswork Out of Information Governance with Autoclassification

The following is a preview of what Mark will be discussing. Enjoy.

The holy grail of records management is automated classification – taking people out of the record retention process and having computers automatically decide which electronic documents are which record types. Quite frankly, in the past I’ve had my doubts on autoclassification of records. But maybe it’s time to take a new look.

There are problems with traditional record retention approaches for electronic information. One traditional strategy is to have all employees manually classify all electronic records, but this does not work very well. Electronic information is growing between 30% to 60% per year. Deluged with electronic documents, it takes a lot of time for employees classify their documents, so many employees tend to blow it off. In assessments across a number of companies, we have found these employee-driven, manually-oriented retention programs experience fairly low program compliance, especially for electronic documents. This is a big problem as electronic records typically constitute 90% of an organization’s records.

The other approach we often see is implementing a monolithic retention strategy, for example saving all e-mail for seven years. As only a fraction of emails are business records, this save-everything strategy tends to drive significant over retention (not a good thing). Furthermore, monolithic retention policies still don’t ensure compliance, as a very small percentage yet material number of critical electronic records need to be saved longer than the monolithic retention period. These records will be under-retained, driving noncompliance.

Even with the advent of this new technology, there is no “easy button” for autoclassification. While autoclassification holds the promise decreasing the amount of time employees spend classifying records, creating a compliant and defensible program actually requires more work in the form of updating policies and creating new processes. These include creating clear, content-based retention schedules, identifying exemplar documents, creating testing programs as well as audit and review, and ensuring overall transparency. Autoclassification will mean doing more work up front to reduce the amount of work employees will do.

While still in its infancy, autoclassification holds promise of better retention with less effort by employees. I have been a skeptic, but now think it’s worth taking a look.

Mark Diamond, Founder & CEO of Contoural, Inc. Contoural is the largest independent provider of RIM, litigation readiness and control of sensitive information consulting services. You can e-mail Mark at Additional information on this and other topics are available at

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