Just to be clear, SharePoint is not an application, it is a platform. Essentially, that means given the right developers you can make it do whatever you want it to. And just because out-of-the-box Expiration Policy is based on record declaration date does not mean that can’t be changed with a little custom development work.
Here’s how you use customization to configure event based retention in SharePoint.
Let’s start with an example. Say you are managing Personnel records and retention assigned to them is ‘Destroy 5 Years After Date of Termination’. Termination of employment is the event that triggers the start of the retention period. You have an employee, Joe Smith, who has been with your organization for 25 years. He has accumulated hundreds of Personnel records over the course of his employment. You manage these records in a Records Center Library called ‘Smith, Joseph – Personnel Records‘.
Obviously, subject based retention can not be applied to the records in this Library. The five year retention does not start until Joe leaves the organization – and you don’t know when that will be. The custom solution to this problem is quite simple. Include an attribute in the record’s Content Type (we will discuss Content Types in future posts) called ‘Cutoff Date’. Keep this field blank as long as Joe stays with your organization. Have your developers create custom code that bases retention on this new date field. (This type of functionality has been written by developers before and may already be available on the public domain.) Set Expiration Policy on Joe’s Personnel records Library for five years from the Cutoff Date.
Throughout his career with your organization, any new records declared into the ‘Smith, Joseph – Personnel Records’ Library will not have a Cutoff Date assigned. On Joe’s last day with the organization, set Cutoff Date on all the records in the Library to that day. (Ideally, this becomes an automated sub-process in your organization’s Employee Termination Procedure workflow.) Configured in this manner, five years from the date of Joe’s termination all of his Personnel records will qualify for destruction.