Most organizations retain content based on its age or some date, such as created and modified. The most common is keeping documents for seven years after creation, then perform some action such as deletion. This approach is the most common and fits most scenarios. However, there are times where retention needs to apply based on some external or other action that is not a date on the content. Microsoft 365 provides event triggers to accommodate this design. The chosen event triggers the beginning of the retention period. Any content with an event retention label applied performs the actions of the assigned label.

For example, the out-of-the-box use cases provided within Microsoft 365 are:

  • Employees leaving the organization Suppose that employee records need retaining for ten years from when an employee leaves the organization. After ten years elapse, all documents related to that employee’s hiring, performance, and termination need removing. The event that triggers the 10-year retention period is the employee leaving the organization.
  • Contract expiration Suppose that all records related to contracts need retaining for five years from when the contract expires. The event that triggers the five-year retention period is the expiration of the contract.
  • Product lifetime Your organization might have retention requirements related to the last manufacturing date of products for content such as technical specifications. In this case, the previous manufacturing date is the event that triggers the retention period.

Event-based retention provides the ability to capture what historically are external processes by providing a manual or automatic event-driven process. The key to using event-driven retention is understanding how event types, retention labels, events, document properties, and asset IDs work together.

The first part of the event-driven retention is to ensure you have the event types you require to utilize them within the retention labels you need to create. You can create an event type within the compliance center, within records management, or directly within the wizard when you create a retention label.

Event Types within Records Management

Create Event Type within the Label Creation Wizard

With the event types available when creating the retention label, you can pick the select event type.

As with all retention labels, you add the specifics as required, save the label, and then publish to the chosen locations.

So far, we have an event type, retention label, and published retention policy. Next is to ensure the label is available within the location(s) needed. If you selected the auto-applied option and chose all your locations, then this takes some time to become visible. For example, the easiest way within SharePoint Online is to navigate to the document library and launch the library settings. Within the settings, click the “Apply label to items in this list or library.”

From the drop-down, select the created label that is associated with the event type.

Every item within the document library will then have the selected retention label applied. The label actions will not begin as the event must happen first to start the process.

The next part determines if you will use an Asset ID or a custom Site column as the event query. Records managers typically apply the event type retention labels to content and enter an asset ID for each item. The asset ID helps the automated process know which content to use the retention. For example, we have added a new site column called “Project Closed” with a type of “Yes/No.” 

With the event type, label, label policy created, assigned to the document library and content, extra column created, now we can create the actual event process. To start an event process, you need to use the “Records Management” option within the “Compliance Center” and choose the “Events” tab. The event itself can either use an event type or the published label. The event settings then require either keywords or asset IDs depending on whether it is for Exchange mail items or SharePoint Online and OneDrive documents. For the documents, we then add “ProjectClosed:Yes” as the asset ID and then set the event’s date. If using the asset ID column, the query would be “ComplianceAssetID:2021“, with the value being whatever value you selected for the event.

The process can take a while to identify the content based on the query but will complete and then enforce the retention policy. As you can see, there are multiple moving parts and specifics needed for this to work. Most of it is training for your records team and or users that will need to utilize this type of retention.