Moving From Static Retention Targets
Announced in private preview in May 2021 and documented in Microsoft 365 roadmap item 70578 as available in August 2021, adaptive scopes should be a welcome extension to retention and retention label policies.
These policies currently suffer from a lack of granular targeting. You can create org-wide policies which apply everywhere or select locations (mailboxes, sites, Microsoft 365 Groups, or Exchange public folders). Being able to target certain locations is sufficient for many organizations but isn’t flexible enough for some, especially those which run into the limits for non-org-wide retention policies (like a maximum of 1,000 selected mailboxes). It’s possible to use PowerShell to adjust the locations processed by retention policies, but few do this.
Update October 28: The preview of adaptive scopes was delayed. They are now available in all tenants.
The Advantage of Adaptive Scopes
Enter adaptive scopes, so-called because they use filters to find target locations which might change over time (for instance, following the creation of new mailboxes or sites). A change in nomenclature labels older retention policies as static because they use a fixed set of targets which don’t change unless an administrator updates the policy.
From a technology perspective, there’s nothing new in how an adaptive scope works because the three available variants use tried-and-trusted mechanisms. The name covers the ability to apply filters in different ways:
- Mailboxes: Use Azure AD account properties to select target mailboxes similar to building a query for a dynamic Microsoft 365 group. For example, find all the mailboxes located in Germany and Switzerland.
- Sites: Use a KQL query to find target sites. In most cases, to identify specific sites such as all those belonging to a certain department, you’ll need to update the delightfully-named “site property bag.” The property bag holds key/value pairs which you can use as you wish. The Set-PnpPropertyBagValue cmdlet from the SharePoint PnP PowerShell module is a good way to update the values used to select sites.
- Groups: Use attributes of Microsoft 365 Groups to define the set of target groups.
After creating an adaptive scope, you can use it in a retention policy or to publish retention labels to the mailboxes, sites, and groups which come within the scope.
Adaptive scopes are not subject to the same limitations as non-org wide retention policies. For instance, your organization might have 10,000 user accounts located in the United States. An adaptive scope based on the Azure AD Country account property will find those mailboxes (assuming your directory is accurate) and make them targets for a retention policy which uses the scope.
The Licensing Question
Microsoft hasn’t said anything about the licensing requirements for adaptive scopes. My bet is that this will be a feature licensed through Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5 compliance. The usual rule applied by Microsoft is to seek higher licenses for anything in the Information Governance/Protection area which includes an element of automation. Adaptive scopes automate the application of retention policies and appear to be a prime candidate for inclusion in E5. Maybe I’ll be surprised, and Microsoft will include adaptive scopes in Office 365 E3, but I don’t expect this will be the case.