Adaptive Scopes – Everything you need to know

While much of the excitement around today’s announcement of new Microsoft 365 records management capabilities will focus on Multi-Staged Disposition Review, it’s certainly worth making sure that you don’t overlook Adaptive Scopes.

Adaptive Scopes offer a new way of applying Retention Policies to your content. While Retention Policies are often overshadowed by their far more flexible cousin, Retention Labels, they still constitute a core part of Microsoft 365’s information governance functionality and, as such, it’s always good to hear about new approaches that can make them even easier to apply.

At a high-level, Adaptive Scopes look for attributes on a given user, group, or site, which can then be leveraged to conditionally apply a given Retention Policy. For example, an Adaptive Scope could be used to apply a Retention Policy to all Inboxes for staff in the UK, or who happen to work in HR and are based in the Düsseldorf office.

What is even better is that as the attributes change the Adaptive Scope will automatically change the Retention Policy that is applied. So, for example, when a member of staff changes department, the modification of the corresponding attribute could drive their content to automatically become subject to a different Retention Policy.

It is not hard to see how this sort of flexibility could be used to make Retention Policies really powerful, especially in the content of Outlook – where, let’s face it, Retention Labels offer quite a clunky experience. I can easily envision Retention Policies powered by Adaptive Scopes becoming a real and compelling option for many organisations.

Scope of Scopes

Adaptive Scopes have been designed to work in most of the locations where you can already use Retention Policies, being able to be deployed across SharePoint, Teams, OneDrive, Yammer, Exchange, and Microsoft 365 Groups. As you can imagine, different parts of a tenancy, have different attributes available to them, so while an Adaptive Scope applied to staff inboxes could make use of a given user’s ‘Department’ or ‘City’ attributes, an Adaptive Scope running against SharePoint sites might instead be looking for an attribute in the ‘Site Name’ or ‘URL’.

As shown in the following diagram, there are three high-level groups of attributes that you can configure an Adaptive Scope to run against, each of which are only applicable to a specific area of the Microsoft 365 platform:

  • Site attributes
  • User attributes
  • Microsoft 365 Group attributes
Adaptive Scopes

Figure 1: Adaptive Scopes – attributes by workload

Looking at the above list of attributes, it’s pretty clear to me that Adaptive Scopes have primarily been designed with Exchange in mind, allowing different Retention Policies to be applied to inboxes of different users based upon attributes such as their team or location. While I’m sure there will be plenty of scenarios where Adaptive Scopes will be used in SharePoint and Microsoft 365 Groups, I imagine that they will predominately be used to help in the application and maintenance of retention across user-owned parts of a given tenancy, such as Outlook and Teams Chats.

In the process of configuring an Adaptive Scope, you’ll be able to compose and configure your own custom criteria of attributes, which will help you filter to a fairly precise degree the application of a Retention Policy to a specific set of sites, users, or groups. The flexibility of the way Microsoft has built attribute filtering can be clearly seen in the following image:

Adaptive Scopes

Figure 2: Configuring Adaptive Scopes
Source: Microsoft

Personally, this brings to mind the potential extensibility that the Property Bag could provide within SharePoint, the use of which in theory could allow sites to change ‘type’ during their lifecycle and see their content subject to different retention to reflect these changes.

That said, as a word of warning, I can’t see Retention Policies replacing Retention Labels as the ‘go-to’ approach for records management in Microsoft 365 even with the introduction of the new Adaptive Scopes functionality. This is principally because Retention Policies only allow for automated deletion at the end of retention; unlike Retention Labels, Retention Policies cannot result in a disposition review. Additionally, Retention Policies continue to apply at a very broad-brush level – you cannot use them to apply different retention rules to different content inside the same container (site/group/inbox etc.), something which can be achieved with Retention Labels.

Overall, Adaptive Scopes are certainly an exciting addition to the Microsoft 365 records management toolkit, a feature I will undoubtedly be experimenting with over the coming months. If you would like to find out more about how Adaptive Scopes could form part of your approach to records management in Microsoft 365, or indeed want to attain a better understanding of the tools, options and innovations available to you in this space, why not get in touch today!

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Rob Bath
Having defined extensive Microsoft 365 EDRM systems and bespoke enterprise intranets, I specialise in overseeing cutting edge solutions that are tailored to meet customer needs. Providing leading expertise within the Information Management field, I enjoy helping organisations on their journey towards compliance.
Published On: May 19th, 2021 Categories: Knowledge & Information Management

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