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With the launch of both MS Exchange Server 2013 and Microsoft SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has introduced the new ‘Site Mailbox’ concept which allows “access to both Microsoft SharePoint 2013 documents and Exchange email using documents and Exchange email using the same client interface.”1

In today’s world, documents and emails represent complementary components of organizational communication. For example, when working on a project, email correspondence and project plan documents both represent important parts of the project record. As such, organizations need to store these components in the same place, and in such a way that they can be located and accessed quickly. The ability to index and store email messages in SharePoint is a boon for organizations.

So what do users get with Microsoft’s site mailboxes?

Site Mailbox provides an email ‘view’ in SharePoint. As per Microsoft, “Exchange stores the email, providing users with the same message view for email conversations that they use every day for their own mailboxes. SharePoint stores the documents, bringing document coauthoring and versioning to the table”.2

While providing a single view of documents and email messages, ‘site mailbox’ does not address the fundamental issue of unifying the storage of these artifacts. As such, the site mailbox approach fails to deliver a complete solution because:

  • There is no way to search for specific emails and documents related to a project from a single interface.
  • Project documentation retention and governance still spans two organizational silos (Exchange and SharePoint)
  • Documentation compliance is eminently more complex when documentation resides in separate repositories.

In fact, here is what Gartner has to say about Site MailBox:

Microsoft has long neglected integration between Exchange and SharePoint leading…third parties to step into the void such as harmon.ie... ‘Site mailboxes,’ which enable users to drag messages to a folder which is accessible from both Outlook and SharePoint, is a step in the right direction. Organizations should utilize site mailboxes to enable messages to be shared with broader audiences and to act as reference material. Prior to implementation, however, site mailboxes should be compared to leading Outlook/SharePoint integration tools which offer more extensive capabilities...[like harmon.ie].3

harmon.ie Delivers a Complete Knowledge Management Solution

harmon.ie delivers a complete Knowledge Management solution by making it effortless for business workers to interact with SharePoint as part of their existing daily work routine and turns documents and email messages into knowledge.

Some key harmon.ie benefits in providing a complete Knowledge Management solution are:

  • harmon.ie allows typical business users to drag and drop email messages and documents directly into SharePoint, so that all project documentation is stored in a single place.
  • While dragging an email message to harmon.ie, the message’s headers are automatically mapped to SharePoint columns so that they are searchable from SharePoint. Emails can be consolidated into email threads according to the conversation.
  • Document retention governance and compliance are assured because all documents are stored in a single repository; the same retention policies can be applied automatically to email messages and documents.
  • Taxonomy-enabled activity stream lets users keep track of project progress and quickly access relevant information in regards to a specific field of work or topic.

Because Site Mailbox does not treat email messages like SharePoint documents, it is not able to provide any of the following capabilities:

  • Metadata support
  • Content type support
  • Version history support
  • Workflow support
  • Different retention policies for stored email
  • Send a link to a stored e-mail
  • Support for SharePoint ‘tags’.
  • Support for SharePoint Views
  • Replace attachments with links
  • For outgoing e-mails: In order to save email to site mailbox, the user needs to remember and use the site mailbox address in the ‘To’/’CC’ and they cannot select a SharePoint library in which to save the document.

The ability to easily discover, retrieve and correctly classify documents and emails in a meaningful way as well as the other aforementioned deficiencies is crucial in attaining a true knowledge management solution. Although site mailbox does provide a step in the right direction, harmon.ie takes it several steps forward and provide organizations with the opportunity to implement a true knowledge management solution; when proper document and email classification turns documents and email messages into knowledge.