This series of blog posts looks at seven best practices to consider when implementing email records management in your organization. It discusses various considerations for evaluating email records management strategies and the challenges to fully integrating email into a records management environment. In part three, we’ll discuss best practices #3 and #4 regarding the pervasiveness of email in records management scenarios and an effective organizational strategy to manage email.
3. Assume every employee is creating records and every email is a possible record.
This is such an important concept, that it’s better to think of it as a mantra than simply a best practice. Assume that everyone in your organization creates records and every email (and attachment) is a possible record.
The fact is that you simply do not know beforehand what email could turn into a “smoking gun.” You have to consider that every email could be a “smoking gun.” And remember, a deleted email or an email that couldn’t be found, can be just as damaging.
So a good mantra for your email management strategy is: “Everyone creates records, every email is a possible record.” And this mantra affects every part of your email management strategy including the design of the system itself and what tools and processes you use to implement it.
4. Deploy a three zone email management approach.
A three zone email management approach is a framework recommended by DocuLabs, Gimmal, and many others in terms of how to handle email in a records management context.
Zone one email are the regular email that everyone gets every day. Some are records, some could be records, but most are probably of the “read-and-delete” variety. In zone one, unless the employee explicitly indicates otherwise, these email are automatically deleted after a set period of time, usually 90 days. This auto-delete policy will cause resistance from staff that are used to keeping email in their Inbox indefinitely.
Zone two email are defined as email with corporate value but which have yet to be declared as records. This zone is like email purgatory, in that some action needs to be taken on them in a set amount of time, usually one year. Either they get declared as records, or they get deleted.
Zone three email are defined as records that need to be moved into an enterprise records repository and have some kind of policy placed on them for retention, disposition, eDiscovery, etc. These are email records that need to be managed properly.
The corollary to this three zone email management best practice is to block alternative storage options (with auto email deletion on Exchange, removal of PST and Exchange Public Folders, company policies, etc.) and make zone two readily accessible and easy to use.
In the three zone email management approach, zone one storage is usually Outlook/Exchange, whereas for Zone two and three we recommend using SharePoint (if you have deployed SharePoint) or your existing ECM or records management system, rather than a standalone email archiving solution or Exchange Managed Folders. Keeping email records together with other content types is a recommended strategy that SharePoint is capable of providing.
In my next blog post, we’ll look at another two best practices for email records management: leveraging your existing Microsoft investment and creating a process that works the way your users work.
Click here to read post #1 in the series.
Click here to read post #2 in the series.