Microsoft Delivers Advanced Data Governance

By Mike Alsup posted 04-04-2017 17:25


Today, Microsoft announced on the Office blog new capabilities for Advanced Data Governance at the Ignite conference in September 2016.  As of April 1, these features have been released into the O365 platform.  As with all O365 releases, these are rolling out in waves.  These features are only available inside Office 365 at this time. 

There are several features released including intelligent data import, threat protection and information governance.  Of significant relevance are the new capabilities around information governance policy.  Microsoft is providing the ability to assign retention policy to content across the O365 platform, retaining content in-place in each of the application services.

Retention Policies (overview found here) can be defined for managing content in Exchange email, SharePoint sites, OneDrive for Business and Office365 Groups.  Policies can retain content indefinitely or for a specific time period.  This retention is based on creation or modified dates.  Upcoming releases will support the definition of event-based (retention triggers) and custom date support. These policies may be applied uniformly to all content in the targets or through advanced settings, and organizations can selectively apply content containing specific words or phrases.  Alternatively, content meeting a certain sensitive information type may be used to apply retention.  Content that is under policy is retained for the length of the policy specification.  Users may still edit, move or delete the content and the O365 platform will ensure that a copy is preserved in a special location (depending on the application).

Classification Labels (overview found here) may also be defined for automated or manual application on the content.  These classification labels are published in policy groups to different locations within the O365 platform.  Once published, the classification label is available to the user for tagging the content.  Classification Labels have the option to define retention for the content and/or may declare the item as a record.  Classification may also be assigned by default at the library and folder level in SharePoint online.

These additions to the O365 service add a great deal of flexibility for information governance and retention.  At the marketing level, these features may seem to fill all possible requirements for a compliant information governance initiative.  It is important to understand specific customer requirements and use cases that may make some of these features less applicable to a given situation.

The ability to manually apply classification labels to both email and document content, providing consistent retention is a key objective of many organizations.  These new labels do not remove the difficult problem of manual tagging of the content, regardless of what the classification label technically does.  Automatic policy assignment methods are provided; however, the granularity, level of insight of policy assignment and flexibility may not meet all requirements.  Managing retained content in-place may be a new concept to many organizations, and it is important to understand how combinations of these new features and existing capabilities can be assembled into a solution to meet your requirements and use cases.

This is clearly an important new set of governance features that all Office 365 users need to be be aware of.  Enterprise content governance takes advantage of the wide variety of tools available.  We look forward to discussions regarding use cases with organizations considering ADG.