Hang on, haven’t we seen this before?
Well yes, Retention Labels have had this function for several years now. This isn’t a new capability that’s been added, it’s actually a capability that has been removed from the Information Governance area.
In fact, the only scenario I can think of where making content immutable when it is labelled is using default Retention Labels on an archive. This would mean that content moved into a specific location could be automatically converted into a record as soon as it enters the library. This, however, feels to me a bit like the old legacy EDRM systems, where files needed to be moved into a separate system for archival – something that sounds great on paper, but tends to rely heavily on having staff who are well-versed in information management.
In my experience, most organisations want to be able to label content when it is created, then trigger immutability later (perhaps based on an event or a date) – something that is only possible with Retention Labels if immutability is applied to content at a later time via PowerShell (and not via the ‘Use label to classify content as a “Record”’ checkbox).
As far as I can tell, Label Polices are functionally identical in both the Records Management and Information Governance areas. Irrespective of where they are created, Label Policies are used to associate groups of labels with specific sites and inboxes.
Event-driven retention is a great way of setting up a trigger for the start of retention periods. Requiring one of the premium licences (Office 365 E5/A5; Office 365 Advanced Compliance; Microsoft 365 E3/A3/E5/A5; Microsoft 365 compliance or Microsoft 365 Information Protection and Governance), events allow you to start retention periods when things change in your organisation. For example, you could have an event that fires when a project closes, which automatically starts retention on all content that has been associated with the given project.
As you can probably imagine, event-driven retention takes a bit of leg-work to set up – planning for the events really needs to be central to the architecture of your content’s structure and classification – however, the outcome can be lead to really compliant solutions that dispose of content in alignment with regulation/legislation.
[I’m now wondering why I’ve not yet put together a detailed blog covering how useful this could be – expect one over the next week or so!]
Providing the location for undertaking disposition reviews, this area is an essential component of most records management solutions that use Retention Labels. The Disposition tab provides a summary of how many items are currently awaiting disposition review for each Retention Label. Selecting a given Retention Label provides two reports:
- Pending Dispositions – which details items that have currently passed the end of their retention periods and is currently awaiting review
- Disposed items – which previously listed items that have been approved for deletion, but which hadn’t yet been actually deleted. However, Microsoft’s updated documentation2 states that “Items that are shown in the Disposed Items tab for record labels are kept for up to 7 years after the item was disposed”. If I’m reading this right then it’s really exciting as Microsoft is finally providing a step towards proof of disposition within Microsoft 365.
By far the most significant aspect of the new Records Management solution for me is the step towards providing proof of disposition. This was certainly the single largest gap in the Microsoft 365 retention story, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this new feature. This was the number one question I’ve been asked pretty much every time I’ve presented to the Information Management community – so I’m delighted to now have a great answer to provide.
With regards to the overall architecture of the Information Governance and Records Management solution, I have to admit I’m still a little bit confused by the way that functionality has been separated. I see Records Management as part of Information Compliance, so personally feel both should be stored in a single part of the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center.
Everything in the Records Management area fits well together providing a tidy retention solution. However, the Information Governance area seems a little disjointed, providing a combination of both retention features mixed together with some largely unrelated Exchange import/archival capabilities. I’m equally confused by why Retention Policies are now the only part of the Microsoft 365 retention picture that are not located within the Records Management solution.
In their FAQ’s, Microsoft explains the differences between the two solutions as follows: “While our Information Governance solution focuses on providing a simple way to keep the data you want and delete what you don’t, the Records Management solution is geared towards meeting the record-keeping requirements of your business policies and external regulations. This will be the only location where you can create record labels or take advantage of some of our more advanced processes such as disposition review”.
Certainly, all of Microsoft’s ongoing investment into records management within Microsoft 365 will continue to enhance the features provided within the Compliance Center. While Microsoft hasn’t yet announced that they will disable legacy approaches to records management (e.g In Place and Record Centers), it would certainly be worth any organisations still relying on these features to start to plan for adopting Retention Labels and Policies.