Abstract Generic non-Markovian quantum processes have infinitely long memory, implying an exact description that grows exponentially in complexity with observation time. Here, we present a finite memory ansatz that approximates (or recovers) the true process with errors bounded by the strength of the non-Markovian memory. The introduced memory strength is an operational quantity and depends on the way the process is probed. Remarkably, the recovery error is bounded by the smallest memory strength over all possible probing methods. This allows for an unambiguous and efficient description of non-Markovian phenomena, enabling compression and recovery techniques pivotal to near-term technologies. We highlight the implications of our results by analyzing an exactly solvable model to show that memory truncation is possible even in a highly non-Markovian regime.