We mentioned policy last time: Without a policy, your means of reporting on content will be less than comprehensive. Therefore, we must develop a specific Content Management Policy that concentrates on three basic things:
– Category of content (identifying it according to taxonomy [subject matter]). This categorization leads to our leverage of content;
– Retention of content: Retaining content for a period of time as defined by its category, against a prepared schedule for the retention/disposition of the various categories of content within compliance of laws and any other regulations. This allows us to ensure that content remains reportable, known, and available during its useful life; and
– Disposing of it in an efficient manner (removing it from the active business environment at the end of its life, either through deletion or archiving). This allows us to remove content from the active environment, and helps to prevent the “glut” and liability of unmanaged information.
In this manner we help to secure content through its lifecycle. In defining the terms of content management, we’ll see that retention drives the policy.
Retention: Retention is the expected length of time that a piece of content will be in your active business environment. Retention helps to drive the efficiency that content management delivers. It sets the periods and dates whereby you can remove data from the active business environment, generally through deletion. A retention policy is part of your overall content management policy, and ensures that all business records are retained for a period of time that will reasonably assure the availability of those records when needed. Certain fundamental, vital, records are identified and appropriately safeguarded – their retention period is “permanent.”
Due to growth in business content and increasingly stringent compliance requirements, Business must recognize that we can’t keep everything forever – much content steadily loses value, ultimately having little or no value. Here we must recognize that over the course of time, any record that is not required to be maintained for legal or business reasons should be destroyed (or at the very least, removed from the active business environment, by virtue of some kind of archiving). This removal is necessary to reduce the high cost of storing, indexing, and handling the vast amount of documents and paper that otherwise accumulate. The retention part of content management ensures the minimization of storage and maintenance costs. It also helps to increase the efficiency in finding documents, and is an overall lever in building a tight, solid, fit of content to your business-intelligence needs. It becomes much easier to repurpose and combine data that is reinforcing to the projects and initiatives that business pursues.
So, how long do we retain specific information against the measure of time? For that, we refer to a retention schedule. Retention schedules indicate every major category of information the organization has, and the schedule for a disposition – such as destruction, or archiving. For our early understanding now, appreciate that once the schedule exists, we remove specific content according to that defined schedule of retention.
For example, you may have royalty records, within a comprehensive category. Your portion of the retention policy, and your chosen, defined, retention period for such records, may look something like this:
VII. Copyrights, Patents, Royalties, Licensees, Trademarks, Intellectual Property Rights, General Business Relation Agreements:
- Royalty records: Life of the patent or trademark, plus 5 years.
There are categories of documents that you would never archive or destroy. The retention policy accommodates these too – in fact, it protects them. For example, general corporate records specific to the creation of an organization, and detailing its constitution, partnerships, and qualifications to do business, etc. would be indicated as being ‘Permanent.’
Another example common to all organizations would be your handling of various personnel records. Your organization may choose to destroy performance appraisals five years after an individual’s departure, for example. Regardless of commonalities, a retention schedule acts on categories of content that the organization defines – the organization is serving itself. It sets retention according to its need, and in compliance with all Federal and State laws, and any other applicable regulations.
Further, our retention schedule can help clean up hardcopy content. We can help to eliminate the divide of electronic content from its hardcopy counterparts through an understanding of taxonomy (subject matter) – for purpose of categorization. We can then set an associated schedule for the management of retention according to the content of documents and records – regardless of physical form or media type. (This also leverages content’s use, removing liabilities of its form and even physical location).
A table of taxonomies will help your organization and its members to define types of content for categorization. Your retention schedule then defines the term for which you keep various kinds of content (according to category) – starting from an individual piece of content’s original creation date.