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What is a retention schedule, and do you need one for ECM systems?

Get an overview of what a records retention schedule is, and an expert’s take on the role that retention schedules play in the enterprise content management process.

What is a retention schedule, and why do I need one for my ECM system?

Retention schedules are a way for companies to manage storage space, legal risks and compliance issues in their enterprise content management (ECM) systems. On the most basic level, a retention schedule is a list of all the document types that your company might encounter (this usually is linked to your taxonomy) and how long each of these documents should be kept in the ECM system.

Content management systems often contain old documents that no longer have business value and are just using up storage space. Companies also need to understand that by keeping a document for an extended amount of time when they are no longer required to do so, they increase their legal risks in the event of its improper distribution or other liabilities. On the other hand, retaining some documents for too little time can result in a company not being compliant with government or industry regulations.

A retention schedule will lock down documents before they should be deleted and initiate automatic deletion procedures when they should be removed from the ECM system. Most companies use a retention schedule in conjunction with a complete taxonomy listing how and where documents are stored and a catalog of security rights for each document type. The combination of these three policies creates a basic governance structure around content management.

This was first published in May 2010

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