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Service-Oriented Architecture
Implementing the IT Balanced Scorecard
The Business Value of IT
Document and Record Management Systems
Service Oriented Enterprises

E-mail Management

by Azad Adam

E-mail is probably the most common means of communication both within organizations and across organizations today. Each time an e-mail is sent or received either within an organization or received from outside - from another organization or individual - a business record of the communication detailed in the e-mail has been made. As e-mails constitute business records, we need to define how we can manage these business records in terms of retaining e-mails so as to comply with standards and legislation governing an organization's documents and records.

Managing e-mails is a comprehensive topic, worthy of a book on its own. However, this chapter discusses the fundamental aspects of e-mail management and how it fits into document and records management.

How to Manage E-mails
To manage e-mails, do we simply retain every single one that is both sent and received by the organization? In theory, this method could be used, but in practice it would be totally impractical. Simply imagine the amount of storage space required. For most medium- to large-size organizations, this would quickly run into terabytes (1024 Gigabytes) of data; hence, we need to define which e-mails need to be retained and which can be discarded. Essentially, the organization needs a set of rules defining its Corporate E-mail Policy and, within this policy, the rules for retaining e-mails need to be clearly defined.

Corporate E-mail Policy
The Corporate E-mail Policy should set out procedures that all staff in the organization must follow. It needs to explain what e-mail use is acceptable and what is not within the organization, and whether it is acceptable to use e-mail for personal use. Simple yet effective rules need to be introduced and guidelines need to be provided to staff regarding saving and deleting e-mails.

It is also important that the organization implementing a Corporate E-mail Policy embarks upon a strategy of organization-wide user education and training regarding the policy. It is simply not enough to place the "new" Corporate E-mail Policy on the organization's intranet with a link on the front page to the new e-mail policy. The introduction of any such policy needs to be backed up with full user support in the way of education and training programs.

E-mail Is Not an IT Issue; It's a Business Issue
It is important to remember that the management of e-mail is not an IT issue but a business issue. It is simply not enough for the organization's IT function to put the technology in place for managing e-mails and then have the organization accept (blindly) that e-mails are now managed. Instead, the management of e-mail is a business issue that, together with the Corporate E-mail Policy, represents a change in the way the organization works with and retains e-mail.

Laws, Regulatory Compliance, and E-mails
Because e-mails are business records, the same laws that apply to other records also apply to them. Laws such as Freedom of Information, Data Protection, and The Privacy Act all have an impact on business communications such as e-mail, fax, instant messaging services, and other written and electronic methods used to communicate both within and between organizations, and among organizations, their customers, and any other individuals.

The exact laws and regulations that apply to organizational e-mails will depend upon the country that the organization is based in, as well as the industry that the organization operates in. However, in the United States and United Kingdom, there are a core set of laws that organizations need to comply with regarding e-mails and related communications. In the United States, the Freedom of Information Act and The Privacy Act 1974 apply, whereas in the United Kingdom, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Data Protection Act 1998 apply to both e-mails and related communications, and all other business records.

Classifying and Indexing E-mails
E-mails should be uploaded to the document repository as other documents and records are. Integration between e-mail client software and the EDRM system makes the uploading of e-mails easier for the users to do. E-mails should also be classified as public, team, or private. Those classified as public would be available for anyone in the organization to view, whereas e-mails classified as team would be available only to the users' team who classified the e-mail, and private e-mails would be classified as private, only available for viewing by the particular individual who has archived it.

Although e-mails can be classified as public, team, or private, system administrators and other authorized users should have the ability to search for and retrieve all e-mails regardless of whether they are classified as private or team. This will ensure that all e-mails can be retrieved and are accessible to the organization as a whole in case circumstances dictate that they need to be retrieved.

The E-mail Document Type
The E-mail Document Type will be used throughout the organization to store copies of e-mails in the EDRM document repository. The e-mail document type will need to include the following fields: From, To, Cc, Bcc, Sent/Received, Date, Subject, and Content. These are the fields found on e-mails that are received by the users in the organization, and hence will need to be replicated on the e-mail document type. Figure 8.1 illustrates the fields, field type, and size of the e-mail document type. The field sizes of the e-mail document type need to be of a suitable length to accommodate e-mails that are sent to multiple addresses, and the content field needs to be capable of storing text and other content commonly received in e-mails.

Field Name Data Type Length Format
From Alphanumeric 255 E-mail Management
To Alphanumeric 255 E-mail Management
Cc Alphanumeric 255 E-mail Management
BCc Alphanumeric 255 E-mail Management
Subject Alphanumeric 255 E-mail Management
Content Alphanumeric Variable E-mail Management
Date Date Time E-mail Management Depends on country's format
Sent/Received Boolean E-mail Management E-mail Management

Figure 8.1 E-mail document type.

Searching and Retrieving E-mails
When searching for and retrieving e-mails, we need to decide whether the EDRM will offer separate searching facilities or include searches within the basic and advanced search facilities. It would most probably be best for most organizations to include searches for e-mails within the basic and advanced searches as this would encourage a more transparent mechanism for searching across all business records, regardless of which document type they are. The basic searches discussed in Chapter 6 should include the ability to search across e-mails as well as other document types, whereas the advanced search, by its very definition, should provide a facility for searching just e-mail document types.

Retaining E-mails
There are many influencing factors that need to be considered before implementing a retention policy concerning e-mails, and organizations need to develop sensible retention and deletion policies that both comply with the laws and regulations that the organization needs to comply with as well as those that fit in with the organization's own specific needs and requirements.

One particular approach that can be taken to retain e-mails is to introduce an auto deletion facility of 30, 60, or 90 days if an e-mail is not archived before that time. However, this approach relies on the users to archive e-mails and, if users do not archive them, this approach to retaining e-mails would fail, as they would then be deleted.

About the Author

From Document and Record Management Systems by Azad Adam. New York: Auerbach Publications, 2007.

© Copyright 2008-2011 Auerbach Publications

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