Spring Cleaning and Retention in Microsoft 365


Spring is around the corner and one of those long-time traditions is about to fall upon households across the world—Spring Cleaning!

Do you get a sense of excitement or dread when you think of this?

I get quite excited, because I am a firm believer in the principle of freeing up space to let some more things in. Plus, the idea of making my environment more manageable and de-cluttered is very appealing.

I know if I get rid of some clutter:

  1. I will feel good that I have accomplished something
  2. I will be helping others who need the stuff I no longer need, and
  3. I will have created a cleaner more organised environment for me to exist in.

All great reasons for me to roll up my sleeves and get at it!

And all great reasons to apply this to retention and disposition activities in your organisation using MS 365 retention labels.

The retention labels within the MS365 Security & Compliance admin centre provide an easy way to start de-cluttering the masses of information that you no longer need. So why not take advantage of this time of year and start a retention spring clean?

Where are you on the Spring cleaning scale?

If you are on top of this and have performed disposition actions from the beginning, then that is fantastic, congratulate yourself because you are a minority. But you can still take advantage of doing a yearly Spring retention review and see if requirements have changed, or if employees are still actively using retention labels.

If you are aware of the need for disposition and you flirted with creating labels and policies from the admin centre, perhaps applying a few, but not fully understanding how they work, then again, congratulations, you are still above the norm. You can use a Spring clean-up to revisit labels, initiate conversations again about retention and initiate another go at implementation.

If you have an awareness that disposition is important and something you need to implement but have done little or nothing for it–do not worry, you are not alone—you are the norm and now is a great time to start clearing away some of the ‘rubbish.’ Use this Spring to become more knowledgeable and create a yearly tradition of reviewing retention once implemented.

Retention labels within MS 365 are easy to create and even easier to apply! They can be auto-applied to whole SharePoint libraries, including files that were already there. Easy, right?

If you do not want to auto-apply labels and have your end users manually apply them to files, that is easy as well. Users can apply the label to one file at a time or can bulk edit all files the label applies to within the library.

One at a Time through Properties:

Select the file, navigate to the properties and select the retention label.

When you click on Properties, it opens a pane on the right, simply select the retention label and it saves automatically. Easy!

Multiple files through Bulk edit:

To add the retention to multiple files within a library, select all the relevant files, click on the (i) and select the retention label you need to apply to those files.

Click Save at the bottom and the selected documents are labelled with the appropriate retention. Again, easy!

You may be asking, if this is so easy, then why aren’t we doing it?

Good question – and that is where the ‘hard’ part comes in.

The hard part is determining:

  • The business requirements
  • The legal requirements
  • Types of information that fall into each retention period.

Once these are determined, the next steps are to decide the following for each record series (e.g. accounts payable, policies) or information type (e.g. finance, client data, contracts):

  1. The retention period (e.g. how long do you need to keep it legally and operationally – pick the longest of the two)
  2. What triggers the retention (e.g. creation, modification, an event such as end of contract)
  3. The disposition action (keep, do nothing, delete, or review before deletion).

These elements can then be directly incorporated into the creation of a retention label:

The label is then published as a policy which enables it to be selected from the retention choices.

The next hard bit is educating users. Not only in how to apply the label, but what each label applies to. For instance, does the Finance – 7 years label apply to all financial files, or are there exclusions?

Once the education is done, you are back to the easy life of:

  • Monitoring usage (Compliance centre – reports)
  • Periodic review to ensure requirements are still applicable (Spring Cleaning!).

With those steps accomplished, I believe the benefits listed for Spring cleaning apply to the implementation of retention and disposition too:

  1. I will feel good that I have accomplished something – absolutely, managing information through its lifecycle, including disposition is a massive accomplishment!
  2. I will be helping others who need the stuff I no longer need—okay, maybe not exactly as you will not be giving the information away, but you will be helping your users and the business by only holding onto things you need.
  3. I will have created a cleaner more organised environment for me to exist in—guaranteed, if the working space is less cluttered with files no longer needed, the active files will be easier to find and your users do not have to worry about whether they should keep things or delete them, those decisions are made already.

So let’s get cleaning!