Records Management vs Retention

Retention vs. Records Management

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Records management is an important component of any information governance strategy, but do you know what goes into your records management strategy to be successful?

Many people often confuse records management for simple document retention, but true records management goes much deeper than merely retaining a document for a certain amount of time. When building a management program, it is important to understand the differences between retention and records management so you can determine if your organization has more in-depth requirements when managing records.

What is Retention?

Records retention is defined as “a practice by which organizations maintain confidential records for set lengths of time, and then employ a system of actions to either redirect, store or dispose of them.”

While it may be tempting to put a massive amount of content under retention, it’s important to note that a good amount of your enterprise content will not require formal retention. Not everything within your company needs to be considered a record.

Examples of a Record:

  • Contracts and Legal Agreements
  • Employee Files and Medical Records
  • Tax Records
  • Payroll Time Sheets
  • Meeting Minutes

Not Examples of a Record:

  • To-Do List
  • Lunch Calendar
  • Duplicate Copies
  • Working Papers
  • Blank Form Templates

Once you’ve decided what information is to be placed under a retention policy, you need to establish a timeline for when the records should be deleted. The period of time a record is retained varies on the type of records as well as the organization’s specific needs.

Examples of information that needs to be retained for a period of time:

Emails12 Months or 180 Days for Receipt
C:\ Drive InformationIndefinitely
OneDrive Information24 Months
SharePoint Content36 Months or Indefinitely

Why do Records Need a Retention Policy?

Retention is a strategy that focuses on reducing the volume of information your company has to manage. By minimizing the redundant, obsolete, and trivial content (ROT), your organization organically generates cost savings.

ROT makes it more difficult to find what you need when you need it. Organizations that don’t dispose of outdated and no longer needed content often have trouble locating important documents, and search results are usually returned outdated or with the wrong information.

Although storage is traditionally cheap, the cost to manage that storage isn’t. It costs time, overhead, and money to maintain, backup, and index storage in order to effectively use the information. If you aren’t setting a retention policy for records, you bloat your storage repository making it more expensive to manage. However, when you put a retention policy on records, you reduce the amount of ROT within your repository, making it easier and cheaper to manage your storage.

While retention management solves the problem of managing large volumes of information, it does not address compliance challenges. That is when a more developed records management strategy comes in.

What is Records Management?

Records management is defined as the process “responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use, and disposition of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records.”

While retention management focuses on the length of retaining a record, that is just one step of true records management. Records management is the management of information throughout its entire lifecycle, from the time of initial creation to eventual disposition.

The Steps to Records Management:

  1. Creation and Collaboration
  2. Version Control
  3. Retention and Storage
  4. Hold and Discovery
  5. Disposition or Archiving

Although retention is an important part of the records’ lifecycle, it isn’t the whole story. Each step within records management is essential to reduce your risk, maintain compliance and gain visibility of all records regardless of their stage in the lifecycle.

When done properly, a successful records management strategy will ease the use, control, and visibility for records managers, providing a centrally managed record policy deployed across the organization. 

How Do I Start?

Whether starting a records management strategy from scratch or revamping your current system, it can quickly become a daunting task.

Resources like ARMA and The Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM) are resources, certifications, and networks to help you achieve your records management goals.

Need help with your records management journey? Reach out to us to help you find the right next step in taking control of your information.

To learn more about the differences between retention and records management, watch this free on-demand webinar.