Records and Information Management Getting It Right From The Start
A Quick Guide To Help You
Plan, Create and Manage
Retention Schedules For
Successful records and information management
lets you plan, organize and take control of your
organization’s physical and digital records from
creation, through active use to secure destruction,
permanent storage or designation as big data. Your
records retention schedule is the cornerstone of good
records management. It is an important step not only
in achieving compliance, but also in controlling costs
and ensuring your information is available when it’s
needed – regardless of where it is located.
What Is a Records
Your records retention schedule is a policy that defines
your organization’s legal and compliance requirements
to ensure your records are:
- Accessible with proper identification
- Kept as long as legally and operationally necessary
- Disposed of when they reach the end of their retention
period by authorized individuals
An authorized retention schedule serves as your universal
guide for the retention and disposition of records. It is
supported by your Records and Information Management
Policy: an overarching document that describes the proper
management of paper and electronic records from
creation through to disposition.
Why Is a Records Retention
Your schedule will capture all the different records
created and used in your organization, regardless of
format, and indicate how long each class of record must
be retained to meet legal, regulatory, and operational
requirements. To ensure the legality and credibility of
your schedule, consider seeking help from an external
expert with access to relevant rules and regulations
for your industry. Retention periods as requirements
vary depending on your locality, country and business
operations. Gaining buy-in from your legal, compliance,
business unit teams and functions across your enterprise
will help achieve organization-wide acceptance. Having
and applying a policy is evidence of good faith and
reasonableness – an important factor during litigation,
audits or investigations.
What Are The Advantages
Of a Retention Schedule?
Achieving legal and regulatory compliance is paramount,
a well-managed schedule also lets you:
- Reduce the records you store and save on space
- Reduce costs associated with litigation
- Mitigate exposures from data breaches
- Control the volume of records
- Improve the speed and accuracy of records retrieval
- Facilitate access to valuable information.
Where Do You Start?
Records and information management begins with
knowing what records you create and receive in your
business units. Once you know what you have, your next
step will be to arrange your records by function, class
and type. For example:
- Record function: accounting
- Record class: accounts payable/accounts receivable
- Record type: cash disbursement reports.
Within functions, records are grouped into classes based
on similar business processes and comparable legal and
operational retention requirements. The more distinctions
among classes the better a user or a technology will be
able to classify a record properly. The prevailing rule is
between 50 – 100 classes per schedule. But this depends
on the complexity of your business. A retention period
or rule is then associated with each record class.
If you don’t want to start from scratch, external teams
can help you accelerate the process of creating your
classification scheme and supporting legal research
to create your unique records retention schedule.
What Is a Retention Period?
A retention period is typically expressed in the number of
years a record must be kept from its date of creation, or it
could be contingent on an event such as the termination
of a contract or the conclusion of a project. There may
also be classes of records that are kept indefinitely based
on their high value, such as articles of incorporation or
Retention periods are determined by research into
regional, national and local laws as well as regulations in
the jurisdictions where you do business. Together, these
determine a base-line mandatory time requirement.
It some instances, a record may also have a period of
liability or a statute of limitations. The retention period
can be extended – never shortened – to reflect the
operational requirements of the business. It is good
policy to document why a retention period is extended to
both defend your reasoning and to discourage a natural
tendency to want to keep things longer just in case. And,
having easy access to the actual citations used in setting
the legal requirement is advantageous for your legal and
How Does Your Retention
Publish your retention schedule so employees can find it
easily. A dedicated company intranet site with search and
browse capabilities is a good mechanism. People can use
the schedule to assign rules to their content. The rules can
also be passed to applications that house records. Your
records management systems – paper or electronic – can
then combine the retention schedule with the date of the
record to calculate eligible disposition dates.
How Often Does a Retention
Schedule Need To Be Reviewed?
A retention schedule is dynamic. Retention periods can
change when laws and regulations are updated and so
can the information your business creates and receives,
especially if you experience a merger, acquisition or
divestiture. If you do not subscribe to a service that pushes
changes to you as they happen, which is the ideal scenario,
then make sure that you review your schedule every
18-24 months to determine the impact of any legal or
What Does Success Look Like?
Make records and information management awareness
a priority for employees, contractors, and vendors
who are responsible for your information. Educate and
communicate as frequently as possible. Make sure that
your retention schedule includes records in all formats,
from all jurisdictions and business units across the globe.
Collaborate with your IT, compliance, risk, legal, and
business units to understand their concerns about
effective information management. And finally, use
metrics to provide evidence that action is being taken to
manage information according to your policy, including
Looking For More Guidance?
To help you develop and maintain your retention schedule,
Iron Mountain offers a subscription-based international
retention research solution. Subscribe to it, and you’ll
receive high-quality research from top retention experts
when you create your schedule and when changes
happen. The information is carefully reviewed by our
in-house legal team and delivered to you through a
user-friendly online interface. We offer a seamless,
integrated system for the management of records classes
and underlying sources (legal or other requirements).
See how you can reduce your legacy storage.
Check out this infographic
If you want to create a business case for managing and reducing your records,
complete with our research