Recommended Retention Period for Teams, Hangouts Chat, Slack?


For everyone out there using a chat-based project collaboration tool (e.g. Teams, Slack, Hangouts Chat) can you tell me how long you’re retaining those messages? Does it differ for 1:1 messages vs. groups/rooms? Our Legal team just announced we’re moving to a 14 day retention policy, which seems way too short for a project collaboration tool. Any suggestions on what I might say to convince them to change their mind?

Their note said in part:

“The decision to implement a retention time limit on messaging was made

after a considerable amount of research and reflection, including a

comprehensive review of best practices at our peer companies. Further,

our reliance on messaging for storage creates challenges for knowledge

sharing, especially when associates leave the organization. Additionally,

while we have relatively few litigations overall, in recent years our costs

from processing email and other messaging for litigation or regulatory

reviews have been extraordinary due to the high volume of irrelevant

material that must be reviewed.”

Comments (21)

21 responses to “Recommended Retention Period for Teams, Hangouts Chat, Slack?”

  1. Chris_Kez

    Apologies for the weird formatting, I've tried several times to edit the thread and the site keeps returning a critical Wordpress error.

  2. jimchamplin

    I keep 'em forever because I'm a rebel.

    I'm also using them for personal use. Please don't let my joke sway your decisons :)

  3. Chris_Kez

    In an interesting twist, a VP from our Legal department has asked me to meet with her to talk about the situation.

    • anoldamigauser

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      If you could explain their reasoning after the meeting, without giving away state secrets, it might be interesting, or entertaining, or both. Legal departments generally do not come out with edicts like this, unless a recent ruling, legislation, or news item really spooks them.

  4. Daekar

    14 days? Good Lord, we keep our documentation for an absolute minimum of 7 years, and some we keep literally forever.

    Our Skype for Business chat logs automatically get dumped into Outlook and they are kept until we manually delete them. I use the Outlook search function to pull up old Skype conversations all the time. I literally could not function or do my job with a rolling 14 day correspondence window.

    Your legal department needs to put on their big kid pants and resign themselves to searching through a lot of content for litigation. That is not a reason to compromise business processes. If using messaging for storage is a problem (sounds like a weird thing to me, but I've not used Teams yet) then the proper solution is to implement user-friendly storage solutions that aren't a problem.

  5. Vladimir Carli

    14 days retention means that thye don't want you to use it for anything more complex than "let's have our meeting 15 minutes later"

  6. wright_is

    Over here (Germany), all business related communications have to be held for 10 years. That is a legal requirement for all companies.

    The conversations (email, chat, whatever) have to be stored in a write once system (i.e. unalterable). Private messages shouldn't be stored (GDPR), but all business communication (tax law). As the archiving systems can't tell the difference, all conversations generally have to be recorded. Employees are informed about the archiving and told that they shouldn't use the company channels for private purposes and that if they do, the private messages will be archived along with the business relevant ones - an escape clause for GDPR.

  7. hrlngrv

    Dunno. Where I work, we're still under a consent decree with the state of New York which requires effectively endless records retention. I exaggerate, but it's in years for anything on paper, and e-mail or any digital originals of anything sent to customers or government officials has similar retention timelines. As for archiving chat, that could be done automatically server side, can't it?

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      I'm going to ask about auto-archiving. From our Legal teams FAQ, it sounds like they're recommending you "print" any Chat you want to save to Google Drive. I guess in theory I could print (lol) each of my project Chat rooms every two weeks; so if a project lasted sixteen weeks I would have eight printouts of the chat history, and then I guess I would delete the room? It seems to me there can/should be some way for this to be done automatically. But then I guess that is just what we generically call an "archive".

  8. Thayios

    Most companies wouldn’t even be pushing to production in 14 days let alone finishing out a major project milestone.

    You should gather the average timeline of all of your recent projects then double it for retention if you’re using it as a fall back to proper documentation.

  9. anoldamigauser

    First thing, 14 days is a bit quick on the trigger. Certainly most projects I have worked on, as an engineer and in IT, lasted considerably longer than 14 days. That said, in reading the message, several things stand out.

    1. "...our reliance on messaging for storage..." This is bad form. If people are passing documents as attachments in messages, rather than putting them in a document store and sending the links, then there is a problem with how the system is being used. The point is to have a single store for project documents, so that all concerned can find them. If users have to rummage back through the conversation thread to find things, the system is not aiding productivity.
    2. "...our costs...have been extraordinary due to the high volume of irrelevant material that must be reviewed." If the wheat to chaff ratio in communication is less than one, again, there is a problem. Messaging, by its nature, tends to generate more back and forth than an email would. This is fine, it is the nature of the tool; but it is a tool that should be used for communication that is in the moment and not necessarily core to the project. The important bits need to find their way to the schedule, calendar, and document store; they should not be left languishing in a stream of emojis.
    3. Another issue, related to the wheat to chaff ratio is the appropriateness of the communication. Project teams tend to be mono-cultural, no matter how diverse the team is, and a lot of the communication that is fine within a team is stuff that you do not want found, out of context, such as in the discovery phase of litigation. I am sure that Boeing's Legal department was thrilled when those emails came out last week.

    It seems to me that this is a very heavy handed way of saying that governance has to be improved.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

      Thanks for the thorough reply! Let me first admit that I have in fact shared files directly to a project Chat room rather than sharing the link from Google Drive. I know, it is the wrong move; mea maxima culpa. I agree there should be a single place for documents-- in our case it would ideally be a Google Team Drive folder that everyone shares. Even better would be a Team Drive folder that is automatically created when you create a Chat room for the project, and then there would be a quickly accessible link to that folder and other documents in the room. This would be similar to how Yammer groups worked, and I believe Teams works similarly.

      With regards to only using Chat for "communication that is in the moment" I would just note that Google themselves sold this product on the idea that is the central communication hub for project work; that was the major sales pitch when they said they were killing Hangouts in favor of Chat.

      People should definitely be mindful of what they say, and I operate under the assumption that anything I say or do at work can and will be made public or discovered. If I have to something to say that I wouldn't want public then I do not share it through email or chat.

      On the whole, I agree completely that governance has to be improved. I think it should be led by our internal Google team and a larger group of worker-advocates sharing best practices, rather than by the legal department.

  10. rob_segal

    Depending on how users use Teams or other chat applications, conversations may contain equally as valuable and important information as emails do. It may contain details or tasks not documented in emails.

  11. jasecutler

    Wait... you can't even keep an email past 14 days?

    This seems completely backwards of a decision, with your legal team dictating business procedures without even understanding the business. There's no business that I'm aware of that is done with communications such as chat messages and emails in 14 days.

    I don't expect this policy to last long at your company.

  12. lvthunder

    Does anyone know what the defaults are for retention in Teams?

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