Poke Me in the Eye with a Fork - SME Review of Retention Schedules

By Susan Cisco posted 07-06-2011 10:21


In our consulting practice, we do not require ECRM system users to understand complex records retention schedules (RRS) in order to achieve records management compliance. Instead we embed the retention rules in the ECRM tools. ECRM users identify the content type, and a retention rule is mapped transparently and automatically to the content type.

  • Good news - Individual end users don't need to be familiar with the RRS.
  • Bad news -  Until it's time to update the RRS every year or two.

During a recent review session with a tax attorney, he complained that his company's ISO 15489 industry standard RRS is too complicated and likened its review to being poked in the eye with a fork! It can be time-consuming for SMEs to contribute in a meaningful way to the review of a new or updated schedule without investing 2-4 hours each. We've found that 15-20 review sessions with 2-4 SMEs each provides coverage of all business functions and record types:

  • First meeting (optional)- Provide SMEs with a orientation to the purpose and structure of the RRS and an opportunity to identify what's missing in the existing RRS. [1-1.5 hrs]
  • Second meeting - After regulations are mapped to the draft RRS, SMEs review the retention periods for reasonableness and provide business requirements for retention when there are no legal retention requirements. The second series of meetings usually generate another round of emails to additional SMEs for their opinions on specific records series. [1.5- 2 hrs]

Time adds up quickly to between 30-80 hours of SME time to review the RRS. This doesn't take into the account the final review and approval of the RRS which is usually conducted by a legal team. With one of our very large clients, the legal review team invested 300 hours in reviewing each record series and the defining regulations for its retention period. The client has a mature ECRM program and tools and thought it was important to have a very detailed and defensible RRS.

As RM finally scales to the enterprise and thousands of users, an emerging best practice may prescribe spending the extra time to scrutinize retention periods by SMEs and legal teams.  Mike Alsup discusses enterprise RM in Myths about SharePoint Records Management  

How do you get meaningful  feedback from key stakeholders and decision makers on your organization's updated RRS? What is the right amount of input?


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