Wouldn’t it be nice if information management was a ‘black and white’ business? If IT managers, financial officers, lawyers and auditors could draw up clear, straightforward lists of what does and doesn’t count as an enterprise record? Their jobs would be so much easier; no grey areas, no confusion, no misunderstandings, no disagreements.
Of course, nothing is ever that straightforward. In ‘the real world’ the rules about what content needs to be kept permanently and what can be discarded are often less than crystal clear. While some documents are very clearly records, others are much less obviously official records which must be kept safely and securely.
Take, for example, orders of work between your business and a regular client. Not every agreement or work order gets an official rubber stamp on paper with your company’s crest at the top. Sometimes, those agreements are simply made in a quick email exchange:
“happy for us to carry on as last month?”
“yes, no problem – go ahead”
The fact that these kinds of exchanges don’t look or feel very official doesn’t negate the fact that they are still records. You therefore need to treat them just as you would any other payment order, invoice or agreement. If you receive a visit from the auditors and haven’t stored email exchanges like the one above in a central repository where they can be found later, you could be in big trouble. Again, imagine the employee who had agreed to the above work order suddenly left the company and had not shared the email in a central repository where other staff could verify that the work order had been approved. This could lead to all sorts of confusion, duplication and unhappy customers.
Now, you might be thinking “most of our POs and invoices are done the official route—our employees are not supposed to make these kinds of agreements via email”. Well, that’s fine in theory, and you deserve praise if you have your staff that well trained on information management best practice. Nonetheless, for most companies, the reality is rather different. We explored this issue in our recent study, The One Email You Can't Ignore. What we discovered is that in fact, a huge number of emails are effectively records in the majority of companies–and, they need to be treated as such.
What makes a record?
Documents are the blood running through the veins of modern businesses. Almost all content knowledge workers produce is created in documents. However, while all records are documents, not all documents go on to become records. Essentially, records are the ‘final’ versions of certain ‘important’ documents. And to be clear, not every ‘final’ document is necessarily an ‘important’ one. There are no hard and fast rules defining what documents are records, as this will depend on the specifics of your business. However, AIIM (the global Association for Information and Image Management) suggests a document is most likely a record if there are:
- legal requirements to retain the information,
- industry standards that relate to the information,
- continuing relevance of the information to you and your organization
- public interest, including the historical value of the information, and future need.
Emails are just one of the many types of documents an organization creates. And, just like other documents, a proportion of those are important and need to be counted as records.
But what is that proportion exactly? Well, our research with information governance professionals indicates that the proportion is pretty high. Asked what percentage of email they believed counted as business records, over a third of respondents estimated a figure between 5% and 25%. And in fact, only 16% of respondents said less than 5% of all emails counted as records—meaning 84% saw a significant proportion of the emails they received as important records.
And, as we demonstrate in our report, even if only 10% of emails sent and received count as ‘records’, that still represents a huge figure across your organization. Internet research institution Radicati estimates the average business user receives 88 emails per day, meaning around nine of them are likely to be records. Imagine she works in a company of 3,000 people who work, on average 250 days per year (taking into account ten days’ vacation and weekends). We can roughly estimate that her company will receive around 75,000 emails (which are in fact records) every year. That’s clearly a lot, and these emails need to be stored in a safe secure place, where you can find them later as proof of certain transactions, legal matters and other important events.
Make it easy to store email records securely
Our research also confirmed our suspicion that, in many organizations, a lot of these email records are still not being stored and managed as securely and safely as they could be.
Download the report today to find out why this is, and what we recommend to help you cut your compliance risk and cut email records management confusion.
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