Jul 23, 2007

E-mail and records management

Last week I participated in a seminar on e-discovery that the Burton Group held in Chicago. I've been immersed in the subject lately, specifically with regard to tools that support the archiving and records management of e-mail content and how they  can support e-discovery. My analysis of the current market will be detailed in forthcoming report on e-mail records retention, so please stay tuned.

My colleague Craig Roth posted his notes and impressions on the topic from that morning: 

This was just my first taste of a topic I hadn’t been exposed to before. Just as we had three groups in the room - legal, IT security, and IT communication/collaboration/content - many organizations need to build bridges between these groups before e-discovery issues come to a head.

E-Discovery: What’s in That E-Mail? « KnowledgeForward

Craig's comments shed some light on the complex situation that all enterprises face when dealing with e-discovery. The bottom line is that all corporate records are subject to e-discovery, including, but not limited to content that comes into the organization through electronic channels such as e-mail, Instant Messaging (IM), and web-based collaboration or communication tools.

If asked today what is their most important desktop application, most information workers and organizations would say e-mail. However, most companies do a poor job of managing e-mailbox content and many of the policies for retaining e-mail deal with recovery/restoration concerns over corporate records management concerns. Putting aside the e-discovery and compliance sticks, what carrots are being kept out of reach by not having the content of such a valuable resource managed in a way that makes it easy to search and store? What about user productivity when trying to recreate correspondence with a client or being able to search all records to that pertain to a particular project, including how decisions were made?

It's Information Management 101 in the 21st century. Organizations can benefit greatly by treating e-mail (and other unstructured content such as IM or even blogs) as corporate records and implementing tools that move e-mail content into records management systems. Not only will they be shifting the costs of e-discovery and compliance to earlier, less expensive stages of the process, but they will also benefit from being able to find the information for other business related activities. As my colleague Trent Henry said the other day, don't make e-discovery the goal of your system, rather make e-discovery a requirement of the system. This may mean going back and looking at the corporate information management architecture to reconsider how to optimize it to support new channels of information.

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