According to AIIM in a recent 2017 survey and report, forty-seven percent of respondents say they are still struggling with emails. Based on my own observations and dialog with our customers and prospects, I would say the percentage is far higher; say 65% or more.

Given that there are a variety of proven email management systems and given the enormous danger of ‘unmanaged’ email it is, on the surface, difficult to explain the apparent reluctance of organizations to implement email management policies and systems.

My own experience leads me to believe that the following are the major reasons organizations do not take this critical step:

1. Lack of ownership and leadership

Email management transects all of the traditional vertical organizational boundaries. There may well be an IT person in charge of the email servers but there is rarely a senior management person in charge of email organization-wide. That is, no one person actually ‘owns’ the problem and no one person has the authority to implement an organizational-wide solution.

2. Lack of understanding of the problem and of the solution

Most of the people who are senior enough in an organization to be aware of this problem do not comprehend the complexities of the problem. They have dialogs with IT people who explain the issues in technical terms, not in business or risk-management terms. With emails it should be the senior executive responsible for risk management that should be driving the email management discussion and solution.

3. Lack of desire to solve the problem plus active opposition to a solution

The reality often is that there are a large number of IT people and others in every organization who simply do not want their emails managed, analyzed, scrutinized, indexed and saved.

4. Confusion over what is involved in complying with a plethora of privacy laws

Much of what well-meaning bureaucrats and politicians have done over the years to ‘solve’ what they see as email privacy issues has been badly thought out, badly drafted and counterproductive.

Every employer has to right to determine how its resources are used. Every employer has the right to protect itself. Every employer has the right to tell its employees if private emails are allowed or not. Every employer has the right to tell its employees what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in an email.

Solving the so-called privacy policy is easy, here is one simple approach.

Tell employees that:

  1. Private emails are not allowed and that all emails will be scrutinized for inappropriate content; or
  2. Private emails are allowed (in moderation) but that all emails, including private emails, will be scrutinized for inappropriate content; or
  3. Private emails are allowed (in moderation) but that they MUST be identified by the keyword “Private” in the subject line. All emails without the keyword “Private” in the subject line will be scrutinized for inappropriate content.

5. misleading claims by companies marketing email management systems

It is a complex problem (have you ever tried to set up a multi-server email system in a large organization?) often poorly understood and poorly explained by the sales person. Add to this the fact that the sales person is usually speaking to the IT person (who lives in a different universe) who then has to ‘translate’ what he thinks the sales person has said to senior management. Too often, the harried sales person, under intense pressure from the IT interrogator, will simply say “Yes” without really understanding the question or its implications.

6. Multiple and conflicting objectives

Is your objective to simply be aware of everything that is in your email store or is it to also meet a plethora of complex and competing regulations and certification standards? Have you inadvertently set the goal post too high? Have you made the problem many times more complex than it should be? Has it become a “Wish List” instead of a requirement? Why don’t you try ‘Getting wet slowly’ and review your needs again when the basic but critical email management problem is solved?

I would suggest these should be your initial objectives:

  • Ensure that you have captured all corporate emails
  • Ensure that you have correctly analyzed and classified all captured emails
  • Ensure that any email can be easily and quickly found
  • Ensure that you have applied appropriate security (right to know) to all emails

In the end it is about ownership, understanding and will. If just one senior person with the necessary authority understands the problem and commits to a solution then it will happen.

There is no shortage of solutions, there may be a shortage of knowledge and will.

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