Colligo NewsGetting Started with Email Records Management in SharePoint: Three Questions to Ask

Email today is the source of 80% of business records. Electronic records management has quickly become the fastest and most efficient way to classify and retain emails not just for legal departments requiring eDiscovery, but for finance, human resources, sales and other departments requiring specific security or retention terms for contracts, agreements, and sensitive financial documents and plans.

Implementing a successful records management program for email requires not only addressing the data security and compliance requirements that your organization must follow, but architecting a method that lets staff incorporate records management quickly into tasks they already perform.

With the rise of SharePoint and Office 365 adoption, there is a growing demand for easier records management systems using technology already in use by most organizations, and familiar to their employees. New tools to bring email records management right into Outlook so employees can save and classify records into SharePoint from their inboxes have become the method to foster adoption of email records management programs for many organizations.

Use Technology You Already Own

Among Fortune 500 companies, 85% already have SharePoint or are in the midst of deploying it, and it is probably going underutilized. Your IT department has already approved the technology, you’re already paying for it, and now you have an opportunity to make better use of an existing investment.

SharePoint-based electronic records management can support records capture and classification, faster searches for retrieving records, and better discoverability thanks to metadata tagging. If you are using SharePoint Online and Office 365 you can go further with user-applied or automatic retention and sensitivity labels.

With Microsoft streamlining the process of records management, this may well be a watershed moment for data compliance. Before you get started introducing email records management in SharePoint however, there are three crucial questions you should consider.

#1 How does electronic records classification work?

Implementing email records management in SharePoint requires expert planning. Start by talking to someone who has done it before, such as internal tech resources or a consultant. You may need the help of a third party depending on the complexity of your file plan.

One of the key deliverables of the implementation process, your file plan includes classification for schedule and retention policies. It is an electronic equivalent to the schedule you already use for paper records. A file plan is based on guidance from a governance document outlining record types and retention policies. It will identify functional areas such as finance or accounting, under which it will list all record types (invoices, purchasing orders, etc.) and outline how long they need to be kept. Someone will need to interpret the governance document and translate your file plan into a tabular format.

Your Record Manager is usually your expert on retention policies, and these will not change when you move from paper to electronic records management. An external consultant can help you find and simplify common denominators between policies. For example, if every file type must be kept for seven years, then you can associate a seven-year retention policy with one classification called Contract. You can create classifications that inherit properties from the main file type and add further metadata tagging for each type of contract. They can then be associated with different metadata columns without you having to create a unique retention policy for each.

Seamless Records Management

Record classification also involves a human element. Consider how you can implement the processes necessary to file and retrieve records within and across departments using a process that closely aligns with how employees already work. Consider tools to bring email record management right into Outlook if you are using SharePoint Online and Office 365. Realize that record filing will never be a high priority for users seeking productivity first, so records management needs to be as effortless as possible.

Two Approaches to the Human Element

There are two approaches to the human element of records management. One is to map your records to a library structure, meaning users don’t have to think about policies or retention schedules. Instead, they focus on file and folder types. Information architecture in SharePoint is key to making this approach a success. Make the site hierarchy in SharePoint intuitive to navigate and easy to use.

The second option is to use the built-in SharePoint Drop Off Library plus Content Organizer. This approach is called rule-based classification. Users input every record into a drop off library. The library will move content to the right folder according to the metadata, and automatically apply a rule for retention policies.

To summarize:

  • Create a file plan that includes classification for retention and schedule policies.
  • Use the same retention policies as you would with paper records management.
  • Implement email record management tools that are simple for employees to use to classify records at the point of capture in Outlook.
  • Map your records to a library structure so employees can focus on file types and folder types, using SharePoint information infrastructure to make the site hierarchy easy to navigate,
  • Or use the SharePoint Drop Off Library and Content Organizer to classify documents based on metadata and automatically apply the right retention policy.

#2 What happens to your existing records?

As you prepare to rollout an electronic records system that works better with email, you have to ask what to do with your existing records. Do you convert paper records with OCR software and scanners? Conversion is a time-consuming task. Every document needs metadata and needs to be directly uploaded into SharePoint.

Keep Paper Records Until They Expire

It may be more time effective to wait for the retention period to expire on your paper records, and keep them in the meantime. Most companies determine that up to a certain date, they maintained paper records, and after that date everything will be electronic. Keep in mind that you will need to set up a means of transferring paper to electronic files for some types of records, such as signed contracts or land titles, and tagging those records with metadata.

How to Handle Other Digital Record Keeping

What if you’re moving from a non-SharePoint digital repository instead of paper? Matching records one-for-one can be difficult during a migration, and some organizations prefer to run parallel systems. Some build a layer on top of SharePoint that will allow them to search the other repository.

As above, a less time-consuming solution than migration is allowing the lifecycle of records on the older platform to run its course until the retention date has expired. Then you can simply turn off the repository. The downside is that two record systems can make compliance a greater challenge, while the cost of maintaining two systems may make migration worth the effort.

To summarize:

  • Consider keeping paper records until their retention period expires.
  • Create a combined system for recording documents that must be paper-based, such as land titles. SharePoint allows you to create a “pointer record” that will identify the exact location of the physical record.
  • Consider migrating records onto SharePoint from a legacy system.

#3 What is a realistic rollout schedule for email records management in SharePoint?

Moving an organization from paper to electronic records management requires planning, execution, and follow-up. The first decision is whether you want to do all departments at once or go one department at a time. A single push across departments can introduce unnecessary risks due to the scope of the project.

The Benefits of a Phased Approach

Going department-by-department can give you early wins as well as leverage with receptive departments when you move to departments with more resistance to change. You can also mature your file plan as you implement it. Building step-by-step makes the task more manageable and allows you to learn as you go.

Choose Where to Start

Begin with departments that will gain the most benefit from electronic records management. This includes finance, legal, human resources, and even procurement. These departments have workflow and compliance needs that involve significant records management. They are more likely to see the upside of switching to email records management in SharePoint and are more likely to embrace the changes you want to make.

Other departments may give you more push back, but if you can demonstrate the value of the change you can get more traction.

Talk to Stakeholders in Records Management

Wherever you start, you need to consult with stakeholders from key groups including legal, IT, record management, and end users. These key stakeholders should be involved on an ongoing basis, and be consulted thoroughly up front.

Listen to each stakeholder where they can provide the most input. Legal can inform of you their requirements for eDiscovery. Record management can give input on classifying documents and help build the file plan. IT will play central part in your rollout strategy.

In summary:

  • Decide whether to move all departments simultaneously or take a phased approach.
  • Achieve early wins with receptive departments and mature your file plan as you go.
  • Start with departments that benefit most from electronic email records management, such as legal, finance, and human resources.
  • Involve stakeholders from key groups: legal, IT, records management, and end-user department.

Key Takeaways

  • Email is a major source of business documents; organizations need to use electronic email records management in SharePoint to streamline classification and retention.
  • SharePoint and Office 365 are already prevalent in most organizations, though their records management potential is often untapped.
  • Email records management can make it simple for employees to apply your pre-existing retention and schedule policies right from Outlook.
  • Decide what to do with existing records: migrate to SharePoint or operate parallel systems until the retention period for paper records of legacy systems expire.
  • A phased rollout of email records management in SharePoint is more adaptable and likely to succeed.

Determine your goals and a method to track progress. Early on, talk to your team about defining metrics such as percentage of correctly classified documents and time taken to retrieve content. Make those success metrics visible as part of rollout, and ensure training is part of email records management launch – ideally with super-user members of each department training others and available as an ongoing resource.

Consider the lessons learned by other organizations in these email records management case studies from companies who have gone through the process.

More Resources

How to get started with Email Records Management – learn more on our SharePoint Data Compliance Made Easy Webinar, with tips for:

  • Determining labels
  • Creating, publishing, and applying labels to libraries
  • Creating Data Loss Prevention policies
  • Saving and classifying files to SharePoint without leaving Office 365

See How It Can Work

Contact Colligo to streamline email records management right from Outlook.

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