The Relationship Between Rules and Legal Sources in a Retention Schedule

The Relationship Between Rules and Legal Sources in a Retention Schedule

Submitted by Webmaster on Tue, 05/10/2011 - 04:00 in

Typical enterprise content management systems (ECM) have records management modules that progress content through a lifecycle until it is declared a formal record, at which time the system allows the application of a disposition rule derived from the user organizations formal retention policy. The rule states how the disposition portion of the life cycle will progress.

Organizations commonly use legal obligations as a basis for retention policy along with business requirements.  Most ECM platforms do not have the capability to maintain a library of legal requirements or the ability to author and manage a retention schedule; nor should they due to the duplication of effort that would arise in large organizations with multiple ECM platforms. Retention policy management and authoring tools do have these capabilities. Using one of these tools, you can associate legal requirements with record types then set disposition rules based on those requirements. In terms of workflow, typically you associate record types with their legal retention obligations based on legal research. Then you establish a final disposition rule based on these legal obligations along with corporate policy.

The question is, whether to associate legal sources and rules within the retention schedule. This issue seems to arise quite frequently.  In particular, should the disposition rule depend directly on a certain set of legal obligations?  In our travels we have heard people use Moreq2 and the DoD directive 5015.2 to justify contrary positions.

In Fontis ORM, the relationships between these three main retention objects (record series, rules and legal sources) are independent.  Our reasoning for not linking rules to sources is really based on the lack of a good reason (that we could think of) to do so. We have had several discussions on this topic with clients who think that the two should be associated.  We can see few positives to this approach and several drawbacks.

To our knowledge there are no direct prescriptions on this topic from Moreq2 or DoD 5015. Since both are specifications for ERMS that manage records rather than policy, many of the requirements are not applicable to schedule authoring tools. In fact, there seems to be an absence of any advice related to linking rules and legal sources in either the specifications or their metadata models (Appendix 9 in Mr2). For example, in Moreq2 the only association we can find is an optional text field where the user can manually input a justification for the rule, which may or may not include a legal citation.

In our opinion there is some merit to grouping legal sources together (such as all contract related sources, or all VAT sources) to make reuse of grouped  sources more efficient. However this still does not imply that the group must be linked explicitly to a rule before it is applied to a record series. The main drawback to creating a hard association between a rule and a legal source is that any uniqueness in a rule/source combination drives up the total number of rule/source entities. Managing these entities and distinguishing between can be very difficult, particularly in the situation where two rules were the same in all respects but rendered different due to one difference in the source mappings. Without a fixed relationship between rules and sources, we are free to apply all applicable sources to a record series independently of any one rule. Then we draw from a much smaller well organized list of generic rules as required by the mapped legal sources and corporate retention policy.

What has been your experience? Do you have a basis for disagreement that we are missing from our discussion?