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Taking the cost and risk out of the inbox

Jeremy Barnes | April 11, 2011
Why the unchecked growth of electronically stored information is unsustainable.

Furthermore, if our policy is to purge transitory e-mail in an aggressive manner, but the system fails to mark business value content for retention, we'll ultimately end up disposing of messages that were important to both users and to the business. And of course, as a consequence, most users will take their own measures to ensure this doesn't happen again - circumventing the system altogether!

The most common argument that a user-involved approach is doomed to failure is that employees will never take the time. Such a stance more or less ignores the blatantly obvious. After all, each of us has felt the frustration of trying to find an important e-mail message and can relate to the time and effort spent sifting through thousands of irrelevant messages. As employees, we both envision and crave a world where we manage our information better. What we lack is not the inclination (in our personal lives it's second nature to describe and tag our content on websites like Flickr), but the mechanisms to make it easy and that don't require us to change the way we work.

E-mail is costly - but it doesn't have to cost you everything

While user engagement and adoption are ultimately both the source and measure of a successful e-mail management project, it is the bad publicity and financial hardships associated with poor practices that are often the primary catalysts for an e-mail management initiative. Successful e-mail management projects are underscored by three fundamental tenets:

  • E-mail represents corporate risk and liability. Left unchecked, mismanaged e-mail invariably drives up legal costs.
  • Not all e-mail is created equal, and accordingly, not all e-mail needs to be retained. Organisations can have the capacity and confidence to curb costs by purging unimportant information in a timely manner.
  • Empowered and trained users are the cornerstone of a measured and sound approach to e-mail management. Legal risk and business impact ensue from excluding users altogether.

That said, the one approach that can be graded conclusively insufficient is to simply do nothing - to establish no corporate policy and simply leave it entirely to whim and circumstance what is retained and what is destroyed. Today, an organisation unwittingly adopting this approach might find themselves in good, but dwindling, company - a surprising and alarming percentage of organisations still have no measured and decisive approach to e-mail management. But as lawsuits garner media attention, and poor practices draw the ire of trial judges, companies can no longer afford to ignore the problem.

Jeremy Barnes holds worldwide responsibility for Open Text's e-mail management, including business planning, go-to-market execution and product strategy. He has been with Open Text for six years, serving in a variety of marketing functions with a particular focus on records management, compliance and e-discovery.


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