Information Risk Management: 

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A Tale of Two Record Types

John Holliday

July 28, 2019

Table of Content

A Tale of Two Record Types

The Business Process

A professional services firm produces a monthly sales report. The sales report is reviewed each month to determine if the firm is on track to achieve its annual sales goals. If total monthly sales are on track, then the report is saved to a SharePoint document library and linked to the firm's Annual Report through a standardized year-end review process. If, on the other hand, monthly sales projections fall below the required threshold to meet its annual targets, then an Emergency Review process is initiated that involves board members, executive management and the sales team, in which case the monthly sales report is linked to a special Emergency Review Report that is rolled into the Annual Report.

We can represent this business process using the following flowchart.

graph LR
    Start(( )) --> Condition{Monthly Sales on Track?}
    style Start fill:black
    style Condition fill:lightyellow
    Condition -->|Yes| AnnualReview(Annual Review)
    AnnualReview --> AddSalesMetadata(Add Sales Metadata)
    AddSalesMetadata --> AnnualReport(Annual Report)
    AnnualReport --> End(( ))
    style End fill:black
    style AnnualReview fill:aliceblue
    style AddSalesMetadata fill:aliceblue
    style AnnualReport fill:lightgreen
    Condition -->|No| EmergencyReview(Emergency Review)
    EmergencyReview --> AddEmergencyMetadata(Add Emergency Metadata)
    AddEmergencyMetadata --> EmergencyReport(EmergencyReport)
    EmergencyReport --> AnnualReport
    style EmergencyReview fill:;
    style EmergencyReport fill:#f33;
    style AddEmergencyMetadata fill:#f33;   

The Record Classification Strategy

In this case, there are two possible ways to classify the Sales Report document. In one case, the document is classified as an Emergency Sales Report that has been through the Emergency Review process, and thus may acquire additional metadata specific to the review, such as summaries of meetings held during the review process. Alternatively, the document could be classified as a normal Sales Report that would acquire different metadata specific to the year-end review process, such as the cumulative total yearly sales figures or recommendations for the following year.

Note: Additional artifacts from the Emergency Review process could be archived in a separate database and referenced using metadata (such as the database key) attached to the Sales Report document.

Key Takeaways So Far:

  1. A document instance does not become a record until the appropriate classification has been applied. In this case, the Sales Report document is not a record until a record type is chosen.
  2. We track what happens during the document life-cycle by collecting and attaching document metadata while the document instance is in use prior to record declaration. Once declared, we then track what happens during the record life-cycle by collecting record metadata during the record retention period, prior to record disposition.
  3. The determination of which record type to apply can be performed manually or automatically, driven by document content and/or metadata. In this case, the record classification could be chosen based in part on the collected metadata as well as its content (e.g. annual sales projections).
title Sales Review Process
dateFormat  YYYY-MM-DD
section Normal
Annual Review           :active, a1, 2019-01-01, 2019-12-31
Annual Report           :after a1  , 2019-12-20, 2019-12-31
section Emergency
Emergency Review        :crit, e1, 2019-07-01, 2019-07-31
Emergency Report        :crit, e2, 2019-07-20, 2019-07-31

The Record Types

Record Types (or classifications) are best thought of as descriptions of processes or activities that involve content. In other words, they are formulas that describe how to convert document instances into records. Typically, the formula associated with a record type may include descriptions of how long the record should be kept, whether to allow changes to the record content or metadata, and what to do at the end of its retention period.

Terminology is important here. Record types are sometimes envisioned as static representations of a given content element's state. However, this often leads to confusion when further analyzing the business processes that depend on the content, or that may generate additional related content that must be classified along with the primary document.

In this case, there are two business processes that share the same document instance. The classification of the document instance therefore depends on what happens during its life-cycle.

Shared Document Instance Between Business Processes

The Implementation

Office 365 provides retention labels to capture the rules that should be applied to content that will be subject to managed retention whenever an associated business process, activity or transaction ends. In this case, we need two retention labels, either of which may be attached to a given Sales Report, depending on what happens during its life-cycle.

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