We produce a content management system called RecFind 6 that includes several ways to capture, classify and save emails. Like most ECM vendors, we offer a number of alternatives for managing emails so as to be better able to meet the unique requirements of a variety of clients around the world.
For example, we offer a ‘manual’ version whereby we embed our email client into MS Office/Office 365 programs like Outlook, Word and Excel and where the end user can just click on our RecFind 6 Button from the Outlook toolbar to capture and classify any email.
We also offer a fully automated email management option called GEM that is rule-driven and that automatically analyses, captures and classifies all incoming and outgoing emails.
At the simplest level, an end user can just utilize the standard RecFind 6 client or web client and click on the ‘Add Attachment’ button to capture a saved email from a local or shared drive.
How do most customers do it?
Most of our customers use the RecFind 6 Button because they prefer to have end users decide which emails to capture and because the Button is low cost and easy to use. A much smaller percentage of our customers use GEM even though it is a much better, more complete and less labor-intensive solution.
This last point is of great interest to me because I find it hard to understand why customers would choose the ‘manual’ RecFind 6 Button, small, smart and fast though it is, over the fully automated and complete solution offered by GEM, especially when GEM is a much lower cost solution per worker for mid-size to large enterprises.
A few years ago in 2005 the Records Management Association of Australia asked me to write a paper on this topic, that is, why don’t organizations make a good job of capturing emails when there is plenty of software out there that can do the job? I came up with six reasons why organizations don’t manage emails effectively and after re-reading that paper today, 12 years later, they are still valid.
Why don’t organizations manage emails effectively?
In my experience, the most common antagonists are the Records Managers and the IT managers. Not surprisingly, these are the same people who would be in charge of rolling out, configuring and managing a fully automated email management system. On the other hand, I don’t think I have ever spoke to a senior executive or application owner who didn’t think GEM was a good idea, they are the protagonists.
I have only ever spoken to a tiny number of Records Managers who would even contemplate the idea of fully automatic email management. Most IT managers just don’t want all their emails captured. This is despite the fact that because GEM is rule-driven, any competent administrator could write rules to include or exclude any emails they want included or excluded.
The ‘Personal Email’ stumbling block
Another road block is that old red herring ‘personal emails’. In ninety-percent upwards of cases where my customer has decided against GEM this is given as the ‘real’ reason. “We can’t capture emails automatically because we might accidentally capture some personal emails.”
It is of course rubbish, because there are many ways to handle personal emails including an effective email policy and writing GEM rules to enforce that policy. Having an effective email policy is a prerequisite to any email capture program.
The worst method?
The absolute worst way to mismanage emails is to mandate that end users must select and print them out for the records staff to file in cardboard file folders. This method is entirely appropriate to 1900 except for the fact that we actually didn’t have emails in 1900. It is entirely inappropriate and just plain ineffective, wasteful and stupid in 2017 but, tens of thousands of Records Managers all around the world still mandate this antiquated method as the preferred approach; why?
Is it because they don’t understand the technology or is it because they stubbornly refuse to even consider the technology?
It can’t be budget, because the cost of expensive staff having to be part-time records managers is monumental. You would be hard pressed to find a more expensive and less effective solution. So why are we still doing it?
Back to the title of this paper, “How hard can it be?”
The answer is that it is not hard at all and that in 2017 every ECM vendor has at least one flexible, configurable and affordable solution for email management. More so, these solutions have been around for at least the last ten to fifteen years. So why are we still doing it the hard, ineffective, incomplete and expensive way?
The real answer is that it is to do with people and attitudes; with culture and with a reluctance to embrace change and a reluctance to embrace a challenge that just might force managers to have to learn a lot in a short time in order to implement a new generation solution. I guess it comes down to fear of change, and maybe even a head in the sand attitude.
I once had a senior Records Manager tell me he wasn’t going to install any new systems like GEM because he was retiring in five years and didn’t want the worry and stress. Is this really why you aren’t managing your emails effectively and completely? Isn’t it time you asked the question of your Records and IT Managers? At the same time, ask yourself about the risks of not managing emails; they can be disastrous.