Multi-stage Disposition in Microsoft 365 Records Management

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Post to show the workflow actions of a multi-stage disposition within the Records Management feature in Microsoft 365’s Compliance Center…

A common requirement for defensible records management is requiring multiple approvers on a piece of content before it’s deletion. This is often seen as approval by the business owner of the content followed by a member of the records management team as a “last line of defense” before content is removed.

If you configured retention labels before multi-staged disposition review was available, you can upgrade your labels to support this feature: In the label wizard, select Add a stage, or edit the existing reviewers or add new reviewers.

I was recently asked a question from a Records Manager concerning the multi-stage workflow and what it looked like inside Microsoft 365. Specifically, they wanted to know if the final reviewer could see what was done by reviewers before them on an item. Great question! Short answer… yes.

Long answer? Keep reading… šŸ™‚

My example is a retention label, Test Review Label, with a 2-stage disposition review (image below). You can have up to 5 stages and the same workflow logic would apply throughout:

  • Stage 1 | Legal Team Reviewers: Joanne Klein (me)
  • Stage 2 | Records Managers: Susan Smith

I’ll show what both reviewers see during the disposition process:

Reminder: you can perform the disposition actions on a single item or in bulk on a number of selected items.

When an item first comes up for disposition, it immediately is in the first stage and awaits a disposition action from anyone identified in the first stage, Legal Team Reviewers.Ā Depending on the disposition action taken, different things happen… in the image below, the options to take on selected item(s) are circled in yellow:

Approve disposal

Stage 1… if anyone in the first stage approves the disposal of ‘Sample Budget document 3.docx’ from the image above, they have an opportunity to enter a comment to support their decision (you may want to standardize what reviewers put in as a comment in additional to any free-form text).

Once you click Apply, the item advances to the next disposition stage… in this case Records Managers.

Stage 2… Anyone identified in this stage, Records Managers, will now see the above item in theirĀ Pending dispositions list:

If they select the item, they can view the plain text, details (workload, location, title, date labeled, expiration date), as well as a History of what was done during this item’s disposition. The reviewer in this stage can see the action taken and comment provided by the previous stage’s reviewer:

The result… once the second stage reviewer approves the disposal, they can enter an optional comment. I’ve seen Records Managers put in an official authorization number to identify the disposition. This is free-format text and your opportunity to inject some standard practices in your organization:


Once the last stage approves the disposal, it will (eventually) move to theĀ Disposed items tab and will be deleted from the source location. This is controlled by a back-end process.

Items can be exported from the Disposed items tab to provide a certificate of destruction. Please be aware, there is limited metadata included in the export file.


Stage 1… if anyone in the first stage relabels an item, ‘Sample Budget document 1.docx’ from the image below, they can select another label and enter a comment to support their decision (you may want to standardize what reviewers put in as a comment in addition to any free-form text).

Click the Labels link on the pop-out, select a label (Board record in this case), provide a comment, and click Apply:

Result: it is immediately removed from theĀ Pending dispositionsĀ list for both the stage 1 AND stage 2 reviewers. The action of relabeling item(s) removes it from the disposition process entirely and the “rules” of the new retention label will take effect.


Stage 1… if anyone in the first stage extends an item, ‘Team Policy 4.docx’ from the image below, they must choose the time period to extend it for and enter a comment to support their decision (you may want to standardize what reviewers put in as a comment in addition to any free-form text).

The result… the item(s) is immediately removed from theĀ Pending dispositions view for all reviewer stages. I believe the expiration date is updated by a back-end process.

Add reviewers

At any point during the disposition review process, an additional reviewer can be added. This may be required if an item needs a “special set of eyes” on it to determine the disposition.

Important to know that any additional disposition reviewer you add using this action DOES NOT also grant them the required permissions they will require to access and take action on the item. (Required permissions)

Stage 1… if anyone in the first stage adds a reviewer for an item, ‘Team Policy 3.docx’ from the image below, they must select additional reviewers to inject into the review process and enter a comment to support their decision.

Select any additional reviewer(s) and an optional comment:

The result… the item stays in the Pending dispositions tab for the Stage 1 reviewers. If the document is selected, you can view the action taken and comment in the History tab:

At this point, the second stage reviewer does not see it in any view.

I’ve ensured John has the correct Disposition Management role. He receives an email informing him there are items to be reviewed. When he clicks the link in the email, he will be taken to the Disposition Review page and all items assigned to him will be listed under Pending dispositions. Like other reviewers, if John chooses to approve the disposal, he can enter an optional comment and click Apply.

At this point, the disposition process resumes with the subsequent Stage, Stage 2 in this case. The comments entered by the additional reviewer will be seen in the document’s history.

In my testing, the reviewers from the stage that added the reviewer do not get notified when the additional reviewer has taken action.

So there you have it… a walk-thru of some of the permutations and combinations an item can take thru the multi-stage disposition review process.

Thanks for reading.


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