Records Management Feature: Expiration Policies

Now that we've given you an overview information management policies in Office SharePoint Server 2007, we can (finally) dive into one of the most important records management features controlled via policies -- expiration.

As mentioned in the last few postings, expiration policies automatically determine when content is ready to be dispositioned, and carry out the specified disposition at the appropriate time.  Since this concept is already very familiar to records managers, let’s get right into how expiration policies are configured and enforced in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

How are retention periods determined?

As shown in the image below, the first element of an expiration policy is to specify the retention period --- the period in which the content will not yet be considered “expired”.


The system provides several options for specifying the retention period:

1.      Retention periods based on metadata: For many types of documents & records, the appropriate retention schedule can be determined straightforwardly from metadata. (For example, many customers we’ve talked to have retention schedules for many record series of the form “date record was declared + <some number of years>”). So Office SharePoint Server 2007 makes it simple to implement expiration policies that function in exactly that way.
Retention periods can be automatically computed for items by applying a formula to their metadata – i.e. by adding an time offset to any date property of the item. These formulas can utilize ANY date properties of the item -- built-in properties like “Date Created” or “Modified”, or a properties created by your organization on document libraries or Content Types. (Yet another reason why earlier we stressed the importance of metadata… J )
For example, in the image above, the retention period is being set for a content type used for contracts, and the retention period is set to “Final Effective Date” (a property on the contract which captures the final date the contract was in force) + 5 years.


2.      Set programmatically by solutions such as workflows: Another way that we’ve heard customer define their retention schedules is based on the lifecycle of a document/record. (For example, some record types undergo a periodic review process which determines their disposition date.)
In the 2007 release, Office SharePoint Server has integrated a new “workflow” platform to enable customers to help automate & manage their business processes. (Workflow in the 2007 release is a big enough topic that it’s covered in its own set of postings on the SharePoint team blog – here’s a link: One of the capabilities of workflows in the Office 2007 system is that they can control  the disposition date of content. So, an organization’s “periodic review” workflow could specify the disposition date for records. Or a “publishing” or “sign-off” process for important documents in collaborative spaces could also control disposition dates accordingly.

How can content be dispositioned?

The second half of an expiration policy is, of course, what should happen to content when it reaches the end of its retention period. Again, the 2007 release provides several options here:

1.      Perform an automated “action”: For many types of content, disposition can be fully automated. For example, the item can be deleted from the system without any human involvement.
For these scenarios, we’ve provided the “perform this action” option, as well as two initial actions to choose from, both of which will delete the item from the system (the different between them is one that we’ll discuss in more detail when we talk about the how records spaces are implemented in the 2007 release). Additionally, the list of “actions” is extensible by corporate IT departments and other software vendors – so if your company requires other disposition actions, those can be easily plugged into this system as well.


2.      Start a workflow: Other types of content (for example, a company’s vital records) may require a person-centric process to either manually dispose of content, or just to have someone approve the disposition.
For this reason, an expiration policy can also start a specified workflow on an item when it reaches the end of its retention period. And while the Office SharePoint Server 2007 workflow platform allows customers to create their own workflows specific to their organizational requirements, we’ve also provided a “Disposition Approval” workflow out-of-the-box, which will allow users to manually approve the disposition of items.

The role of expiration policies in records & collaborative spaces:

I hope that by this point the use of expiration policies in records spaces is clear – they are the way in which you can implement your retention schedules for each record type in your file plan. For those record types where an automated disposition is appropriate, you can use disposition actions; and for record types where manual disposition/sign-off is required, you can use workflows to manage this process.

However, there’s also an important use of expiration policies in collaborative spaces, which is very beneficial to both records managers and Information Technology departments – they can be used to automatically “clean up” inactive non-record content. For example, an organization could decide to set a default expiration policy in a collaborative space with a retention period of “date last modified + 180 days”, and using the automatic “delete” disposition action. (Note that this policy would NOT affect record content in the system – we’ll discuss this in more detail when we talk about how records are declared out of collaborative spaces…) Such a policy would reduce overall IT storage costs by removing un-used data. And it would reduce discovery costs for lawyers/records managers as well, by removing content from the system that the organization didn’t need to retain in an automated & defensible manner.

And that is the basic overview of expiration policies in Office SharePoint Server 2007. In our next posting, we’ll discuss a feature relevant to  both records management and regulatory compliance – the auditing of active content & records.

Thanks for reading!

- Ethan Gur-esh, Program Manager

Comments (16)
  1. DLV says:

    Dear Ethan Gur-esh,

    First I wish to congratulate you and your team for bringing Records Management out of the closet and into the mainstream by the effect of Microsoft joining the cause and also for making your thoughts and principles related to RIM to the passionate masses via the web blog.

    In your latest posting you state – Perform an automated “action”: For many types of content, disposition can be fully automated. For example, the item can be deleted from the system without any human involvement.

    I have a major problem with this concept. WHY? Because disposition requirements may change or need to be updated over time, an automated disposition process may cause legal, moral or historical implications. In my RIM world I would always, and without exception requires a manual process so that I can receive a document of what is to be disposition so I can have senior management sign off on the action. It is not my decision to disposition certain data at a certain times but a corporate one [as an RIM manager I may be delegated the authority to advise on the disposition process but I would never sign off personally due to legal implications if I made the incorrect decision]. Senior executive level and possibly the legal department need to sanction an action not the RIM system or the RIM manager.

    On a second matter: The promotion of classification as a desirable process has been highlighted on several occasions in the blog postings but to date no specifics. Will you be addressing the matter soon? I vote with you in your statement – Because we believe classification is a critical component to the success of any records management system, we’ve enabled a number of other features like record filing and reporting, that help process your records or help you identify if anything is out of policy. – I would go further and state that without a Business Classification Scheme – BCS in place no and I mean NO [in the strongest terms] RIM system can be successful.

    Third matter: I see no mention of ISO 15489 pars one and two in any of your blog posts. What is Microsoft’s position in the support or otherwise to the International Bible for RIM in its product offerings? ISO 15489 to my knowledge is now available in Italian, French, and German and of course English plus I understand it is being translated for Russian & Chinese. ARMA of the USA and Canada are supporters of the standard so it would be of interest that the Microsoft offerings are at least cognisant of the principles and guidelines espoused in ISO 15489.

    My 2 cents worth!

    Laurie Varendorff ARMA

  2. Hef says:

    I’ll respond to Laurie’s 1st point.  In a post-Enron world legitimate disposal of records at the 1st opportunity is a way to reduce the costs and risks associated with discovery. Retaining records for other than legal purposes such as cultural or historical interest becomes an active pursuit rather than the default.  Where possible, automatic disposal is essential to deal with the very large volumes of electronic documents that may occur.  Unnecessary retention creates a litigative risk that most companies will avoid.  Changes that affect disposal will need to be reflected in the disposal system, and a feature I would like to see is a workflow for reviewing disposal classes.  There is also a metadata issue with disposal – the legislative basis of a disposal class needs to be in the metadata, to allow tracking changes in the legal environment.  

    Of course, organizational policies may be needed to set who approves the disposal actions when the system is implemented and maintained, but it would seem to me that automatic disposal would lead to a significant productivity gains, although my experience in government is that this would be hard to justify on an ROI basis, as disposal action on physical records tends only to be taken when it becomes a major problem due to storage overflow or a significant legal action, and is otherwise not resourced.

    As an example, on government agency I worked for handled 40,000 emails per hour (Not counting emails that were spam filtered).  Now, using a rough guess as to how many were records (1% seems reasonable, but it could vary) that’s 400 emails per hour which should be captured as records.  Assume an 8 hour day (more like 10 in that organization), 3200 a day, assuming 250 working days per year that’s 800,000 per annum.  I don’t even want to think about listing these in anything other than an electronic form, and the sooner that volume is reduced the better, as that 800,000 becomes a rich hunting ground for lawyers during discovery, the media during Freedom of Information requests, and a tremendous burden in terms of indexing. And in all likelihood, most will never be referred to after a month or two.

    During discovery records are assigned a hold – disposal should cease with the discovery order.  A possibility is to stream records for disposal into 2 streams, the 1st being those that have never been accessed, and the 2nd those with some level of access.  That would highlight those that are more likely to be of some significance, and perhaps should be the subject of further review.  All of this is possible, provided the metadata design is decent and logs are available.  When volumes are high automation is essential, otherwise we end up with organizations staffed with 5% records staff.  



  3. @ DLV:


    Firstly, thank you for your warm congratulations on our product and our blog… it’s always great for our team to hear.

    Regarding your questions/feedback:

    1. About “automated disposition”: I completely agree that in many circumstances automated disposition isn’t appropriate, and I apologize if this posting didn’t adequately stress that. It’s exactly for that reason that we’ve enabled our expiration policies to use human-centric workflow processes to manage record disposition, in addition to the automated approach. And of course, in all cases a RIM program’s dispositions must always be sanctioned by the appropriate executives & legal departments.

    2. Classification: We will be getting into the details of classification soon (beyond what we’ve already discussed with Content Types). We know that community is waiting to hear more about classification, but we’ve got many concepts to cover in the overall story of RIM in Office 2007 and want to adequately cover each before moving onto the next. But please stay tuned! 🙂

    3. About ISO 15489: While we haven’t mentioned it directly on this blog yet, we’re very much aware of and in favor of ISO 15489. Having an ISO-ratified standard for records management practices was an important event in the discipline of records management, and we certainly took the principles & best practices of that standard into account when designing Office 2007. It’s my hope that as we continue to talk about RIM in Office 2007 that it becomes evident how the functionality in our product aligns with ISO 15489. (So again, please stay tuned!)

    – Ethan Gur-esh, Program Manager

  4. @ Hef:

    Thanks for the comment/response! I couldn’t have made the case for automated disposition in a RIM program better myself. 🙂

    – Ethan Gur-esh, Program Manager

  5. Here is an assortment of various 2007 Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Documentation / Reference Materials…

  6. Arno Nel 2.0 says:

    Planning Plan document management Chapter overview: Plan document management What is document management?

  7. So far in this blog, we’ve talked directly about electronic records – the files created in document authoring

  8. In my previous post , I described how organizations can define a set of e-mail classifications (i.e.

  9. Document and Records Management Definition Document Management According to Wikipedia : &quot;A document

  10. 2007 MOSS Resource Links (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server) Here is an assortment of various 2007 Microsoft

  11. Arno Nel 2.0 says:

    Document and Records Management Definition Document Management According to Wikipedia : &quot;A document

  12. HusseinA says:

    after expiration, the disposition approival triggers.

    what happens when i select "retain this item". would this renew the expiration policy again, so lets say if it is a year, then this will renew the item with 1 more year ?

  13. WebBldr says:

    I cannot find documentation anywhere on the Web or in any SharePoint book that provides instruction on how to handle the document after it expires. A task is created and then what. You can go in and choose to retain or delete the document, but what can I do to force the user to address the task? I want the site administrator notified when the document expires. I want them to then have to address the task within a reasonable amount of time and if they do not I want the item to delete. I also want the items expiration policy (1 year) to start again when they choose to retain it. I have tried custom workflows in designer, but the email message does not send. Is there an OOB solution to this and if not, instruction on how to set it up in designer? Can anyone please help us site administrators carry this policy through. It just stops. It starts and then nothing.

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