Are you singing the email blues? "My inbox is full. Email is hard to find. I need more info but do not want more email. Attachments are killing my eDiscovery efforts." All of these are lyrics to what I call the email blues, and many organizations have really begun to sing them. For many enterprises, email has become the tool of choice for communication and collaboration, which in turn, has caused a massive growth in the amount of email to be managed, increased costs to control, increased numbers of information silos — remember that if an email sits in an inbox, it is typically closed to the rest of the organization — and a barrier to efficient and effective e-discovery initiatives. This leads to the need and my own personal mantra that email, like all other business related information, must be governed and managed properly.
Email needs to be saved and placed in appropriate repositories and made accessible to those who have the right to see it, while at the same time, retention and security must also be a consideration in your email governance. What of appropriate use? Should you, or would you, allow employees to use the corporate email system for personal use? If so, what are the guidelines and are you placing your organization at risk by doing so? Imagine that an employee using email for personal reasons carries on a discussion that on the surface could seem harmless but in an audit or litigation could prove to be a risk. It has and does often happen. So the questions is, "What is your policy, and how do you enforce it?"
In my view, these are some of the critical areas you need to focus on in relation to email management. The hardest of all is how you work with employees so they learn not only the rules but the importance of why these rules are in place. Following a basic model of governance, you need to establish policies, which are whenever possible, built on standards. You need to design processes and procedures and find tools that support policy use. You will need to train the employees about the policies and how to use the processes and tools that enable them to adhere to the policies and finally, conduct regular audits to ensure policy and processes are followed. Be prepared to take corrective actions as needed, and then begin all over again to refine what you have built. In this way, you can put an end to singing the email blues and perhaps begin to sing a song of information management joy.
BOB LARRIVEE is director and industry advisor with AIIM International where he lectures and teaches about best practices in information and process management. Follow Mr. Larrivee on Twitter @BobLarrivee.