There is a cult children’s book called, “Everyone Poops”. If I was to write children’s literature on information management I would write one called, “Everyone E-mails.” E-mail, like poop is something everyone does and has gotten a bad name. E-mail is so unpopular that there are untimely rumors about its ultimate demise due to the rise of social media. Although there are great benefits to communicating and collaborating with social media that e-mail does not offer, it will never replace e-mail.

Here are a couple of e-mail trends that show why many people are calling for the death of e-mail:

•E-mails users spend more than an hour and a half per day processing their emails, with one in five spending three or more hours of their day.
•“Sheer overload” is reported as the biggest problem with email as a business tool, followed closely by “Finding and recovering past emails” and “Keeping track of actions.”*

The problem with e-mail is not e-mail as a tool, but instead how users use e-mail. Many users view email as something personal and are not welcoming to e-mail policy changes, so it is best that they are made at the server level. A 2009 AIIM study on the subject e-mail management policies discovered that only 10% of organizations surveyed have a completed an enterprise-wide mail management initiative, only 20% currently are rolling out a project and in larger organization 17% have no plan to do so. This is particularly problematic as the Certified Information Professional Study guide from AIIM states, “Organizations without policies have a hard time managing anything, let alone email, and policies without user training and compliance auditing may as well not excist, for they will not be heeded even when people know they are present.”

Kayshyap Kompella at Real Story Group in Olney, MD in the article, “The future of email: Collaboration experts on new social media tools” made the statement, “The problem is not the tool but the way we use the tool. We can put it to good use or bad use, so we just need to get a bit smarter about how we use email.”

As a records manager who is an advocate of big bucket retention scheduling based on function, activity and subactivity/transaction I believe that e-mail folders should be managed like shared drives. When managing email part of the management is managing the e-mail client and the other part is managing the users. Since users can create business records via e-mail this is an area which needs information governance and my vision is having folders created for them at the server level by an administrator just like in the shared drive. The folders would be based on the functions, activities and subactivites of the organization with disposition action based on the records retention schedule associated with the folders. The disposition would be automated so that users do not inadvertently delete records and the ECM keeps track of the official record copy.

What are your recommendations for how organization can use e-mail more strategically?

E-mail management: the good, the bad and the ugly*this is the source of the trends
CIP Video Series on Email Management
E-mail Rules by Nancy Flynn and Rudolph Kahn