Retention scheduling is the process of determining the life of a record in each stage of the information life cycle (from creation through disposition). Scheduling takes into consideration not only the practical business life of records (satisfying administrative, fiscal, and research needs) but also federal, state and local regulatory requirements.
The length of time a record must be kept to meet these requirements is referred to as its retention period. Records retention schedules are a critical component of a records and information management program. In its most basic form, a records retention schedule identifies the records to be managed and communicates how long the records are to be retained. A records retention schedule provides direction and guidance on recordkeeping requirements and conditions.
The records retention schedule is typically compiled and maintained by a records and information management (RIM) professional (sometimes called a Records Manager) – using best practices, industry standards and methodologies.
The process of creating a retention schedule begins with gathering information by conducting a records inventory to determine among other things: what records exist, their formats, their origin, and who accesses them. In the end, the retention schedule is usually reviewed and approved by appropriate departments and signed off by the leadership of the organization. If the organization is a state-funding entity, it is possible that state law will require the retention schedule to be approved by another state agency – an agency that has legal authority over records and information management issues state-wide.