A wide range of departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies have been adopting a 'What to keep' process to decide what information they need to retain. Each of these organisations has tailored the approach to suit their own specific needs and below are examples of how three of these have put 'What to keep' into practice:

Department 1

  • Central government department
  • One of the first departments to pilot 'What to keep'
  • Obtained senior management buy-in at the start of project, which was pivotal to its success
  • Following a successful pilot, 'What to keep' was applied to the whole department by March 2011
  • Investigations are based on the Knowledge and Information Management team interviewing staff across the business unit to find out what information they created/held
  • Results analysed to identify information risks, groups of information and retention periods
  • Actions included in a measurable agreement between the head of each business unit and the Departmental Records Officer - used as evidence to support corporate governance statements
  • Produced a series of easy-to-follow schedules and desk guides to ensure that all staff know what information they need to keep, how long for and where
  • Have applied schedules to information held in EDRM systems
  • Next step - to establish regular monitoring and review arrangements

Department 2

  • Central government department
  • Project initially conceived to deal with several million records stored within EDRM which has been in place since 2001
  • Piloted five different methods to analyse information held, and derived overall 'What to Keep' model from these
  • Identified a retention period of eight years for all digital records unless there is an exception, for example, legislation or business need requires the information to be kept for longer or the information is of historical value and needs to be permanently preserved
  • Used search functionality of EDRM system to identify where exceptions are stored within EDRM and attached retention periods to folders within EDRM. Exceptions make up about 19% of total digital information held, and the information for permanent preservation is about 6% of that.

Department 3

  • Executive agency and government department
  • Decided to roll out across the whole of the organisation at same time
  • Departmental Record Managers within each business unit worked with colleagues to produce schedules broadly listing types of information produced and likely retention periods. A simple template produced for this purpose
  • KIM team reviewed and compared schedules, extracted 27 generic record categories and created five additional time based disposal schedules (0, 2, 5, 10 years and permanent) for department-specific information
  • Generic schedule will run alongside specific schedules and it will the responsibility of DRMs and business units to keep these up to date
  • Have applied disposal schedules to two thirds of current file plan and have started applying it to legacy paper file registry
  • The 'What to keep' schedules are also being used to track both sensitive and publishable material

Further information can be found on Collaborate. Departments involved in what to keep/retention/disposal of digital records are encouraged to share information about methods used on Civil Pages. Please note, Civil Pages is only available on the Government Secure Intranet (GSI).