Many organizations I have spoken with think that saving all email for all time is the best answer to email management. Wrong! Email management goes well beyond just saving email and, in my view, certainly does not promote the idea of just saving everything for all time. Can you imagine how much storage that will take?
According to a study conducted by the Radicati Group, in 2007, the average corporate employee received an average of 18MB of email per day. This is expected to reach 28MB per user per day by the end of 2011 and continue to grow from there. Let's use the 2007 figures to be on the conservative side of this discussion. If the average user receives 18MB of email per day, and it is assumed that there are 260 business days per year, that user will have received approximately 4.6GB of email in a year. While this does not seem like a lot these days, let's expand this further. If your company has 1,000 employees and each of them falls into this example, you are now looking at an average of 4.6GB of email per person per year or a total of approximately 4.6 terabytes of email to store, manage and search. Imagine now that you are in the middle of an audit or litigation and asked to produce all emails relevant to the audit or case. You will have to search through the four terabytes wherever it is stored. When you look at it in terms of messages, rather than storage size, it equates to approximately 35 million messages per year for your 1,000 users, using the averages from 2007. If you look at 2011 and the estimated growth of 28MB per user per day, the numbers climb substantially to just under eight terabytes per year.
Saving all email for all time is not the solution and is not the full extent of email management. Email management includes archive and storage but in a controlled way, using taxonomic structure, destruction of email with no value and duplicates, filtering to prevent sensitive information from leaving an organization and unwanted information from entering. Email management also addresses things like ethical walls where information cannot be passed from one person or organization to another, as one might see in the legal profession, due to conflict of interest. The point being that email management is not saving all things for all time, and it is not easy.
In my view, email management requires a significant amount of time to assess, analyze, plan and implement a sound strategy to manage email properly, maintaining all that is important and addressing compliance issues. Email management will also change the way an organization works. As an example, an email management use policy might indicate the use of attachments is not the recommended practice and that links to information in a dedicated repository is the process for the organization going forward. This simple change in process by itself will upend the user community. Employees will challenge the validity of this new way of working and challenge why it is important to follow this process. As part of the change aspect, you will need to communicate the driver for it, say, regulatory compliance, and the value, which might be consistency and the formation of a single source of information.
No matter how you look at it, the best practice is not to just save everything, and it will take a lot of work to get to where you should be. Treat email management as a project; take time to learn what is being done today; and develop a plan on what it should be tomorrow. Identify the gaps, and work to strengthen your email practices. In the end, you will find it is well worth the effort.
BOB LARRIVEE [firstname.lastname@example.org] is director and industry advisor with AIIM International where he lectures and teaches about best practices in information and process management. Follow him on Twitter @BobLarrivee.