Thumbnail 4 benefits of starting your DLM journey today

4 benefits of starting your DLM journey today

A lot of people seem to be talking about archival and retention processes these days. Or am I just taking note of it more because I like the subject? Because in truth, if I zoom in on all the projects I’ve been a part of, I feel like it’s the other way around: the subject is apparently below the radar of many organizations I know. It deserves a lot more attention than it gets. For all kinds of reasons.


☝️ DLM is the process of managing documents and data in their entire lifecycle from creation to archival/destruction. But I’m specifically talking today about the last part of that: archiving and destroying data.

So I’d like to poke the fire a bit: data lifecycle management, retention, compliance, it’s a hugely important subject! And its benefits are hugely underrated as well. So let’s look at four positive side effects of implementing data lifecycle management:

From a security and governance perspective, the case for data lifecycle management is clear: The larger your data estate, the more data you have to protect. And the more data that can be lost or stolen, maybe even without someone finding out about it.

I’m reminded of a large migration project that I was a part of. While analyzing the source data we found a data leak where a fired employee had taken a lot of documents with him as he left the company. Nobody had noticed. This could have been prevented with better governance policies in place. But the data had just grown and grown beyond the point where it was manageable.

It’s easy to lose track of things if there’s too much of it! And it’s far harder to protect it all.

Tip: In Microsoft Purview, such a scenario might be averted by multiple things together, like sensitivity labels and data loss policies. Retention policies and labels are a piece of the puzzle.

As organizations have been embracing working in the cloud, we’ve increasingly been hearing questions from IT professionals about their tenant running out of space! With Microsoft 365 and SharePoint, this is not typically a question you think about when you’re migrating from your File System. All we hear is that with the cloud there are no limits. And that’s mostly true… if you have enough money.

The amount of available storage space on SharePoint for an organization is calculated based on the amount of user licenses you have. It’s currently 1 Tb per tenant + 10 Gb per user license. The cost of buying additional storage space on SharePoint is quite high though. A good reason to take every precaution to be lean and mean!

This can be done in various ways. For example by something simple as limiting the amount of versions a document may have in SharePoint. But more so by taking care beforehand what data is archived and destroyed and when. Implementing retention policies and retention labels are a great way to do this, as well as moving data to cold storage if possible.

Tip: In Microsoft Purview, Retention policies are a 'clean-up behind you' type of policy that can auto-delete content within a site, team or mailbox after (for example) a couple of days, months or years. Retention labels can be used to target retention actions at specific files and folders, and come with advanced records management and disposition features.

The more data you have, the harder it is to find what you need. This is a simple fact. It’s the reason why we have search engines. And Microsoft Search is a prime example of those: a very powerful tool. But it cannot work miracles. Even with search engines it’s easy to get lost in the search results. It’s clear as cake here: it’s a good thing for everyone if there’s less irrelevant data. To keep around what you really need and destroy content that’s expired.

With the dawn of AI and Microsoft Copilot we’re seeing a new era of search. Copilot can help you draw together information from various sources and present it in a meaningful way. It’s a great tool! And it has possibilities here in terms of ignoring stale data. But the same applies here as well: Even Copilot will benefit from clear Governance policies and data lifecycle management.

Tip: Microsoft Copilot may just surface data to employees you all didn't know they had been given access to. It's no luxury to have your house cleaned up and in order.

Last, but not least: the longer you wait, the harder it will become to implement data lifecycle management. It’s a bit like cleaning your house. The longer you wait, the more work it will be. It all starts with a good information architecture. Once you have that in place, you shouldn’t stop, but take the next step and implement retention policies and/or retention labels. In the end, taking the necessary steps upfront will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, and it will lead to better data quality and thus happier users.

These are just four reasons to start implementing data lifecycle management right away. But there’s probably many more. Let’s not wait until the data has grown above your head. Let’s start now and make sure we’re in control of our data. It’s a good thing for everyone.

Happy compliance journey!

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Microsoft MVP | Microsoft 365 Architect

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