If you struggle with email and records management, you’re not alone. Research from AIIM (the global community for information professionals) found that over 40% of information professionals were struggling with electronic records, 38% had problems dealing with email management, and compliance monitoring was a major concern for a full 35%.
Fig 1. Which three of the following are giving you the biggest cause for concern right now? (Max 3)
That chart is from 2013, yet all indications suggest the problem has in fact gotten worse – not better. With a rising tide of information entered into their systems, with data from a growing number of devices and a higher potential for weaknesses to be exploited, the challenges for managing emails and records are growing – not shrinking. The last couple of years in particular have seen even larger leaks and hacks and even higher costs associated with cleaning these up.
How prepared are you?
Now, this post isn’t meant to be all about scaremongering, but you should be aware of a whole range of threats that will arise from poor email and records management.
- The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be passed into effect this year. It will require urgent changes to many organizations’ email and records management policies, yet many businesses are lagging behind.
- Without well managed records and emails, you will struggle to deal with Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, and this may lead to bad press and legal action.
- Poor records and email management will lead to frustrated and angry colleagues – they just want to find information fast, not dig through endless C: drives.
- You may lose crucial documents and emails. This could cause a lot of potential embarrassment.
- Clutter and poor organization; your company’s information is highly valuable, yet too many firms’ SharePoint environments are flooded with confusing and poorly managed information.
From fines to frustration, the consequences of poor records management are evident. However, if you currently have only a minimal email and records management policy, it can feel overwhelming to attempt to get your shop into order. But think about it like this: once email and records are efficiently managed, you’ll see a massive drop in complaints and requests to IT, your colleagues will love a smooth and slick system and, most importantly, you’ll drastically reduce your risk of losing key documents and even being fined.
How to create an email and records management policy
If your existing policy is out of date, ineffective or non-existent, it’s high time you implemented a new one. You should treat this as a major business project – get executive buy in and set up a team to drive this new policy forward. Sadly, these things don’t ‘happen by themselves’; you will need to push for this, but once it’s become the norm in your business, you will definitely see the difference.
The Management Study Guide defines business policy as follows:
“Business Policy defines the scope or spheres within which decisions can be taken by the subordinates in an organization. It permits the lower level management to deal with the problems and issues without consulting top level management every time for decisions”.
Your email and records management policy should do just this. When defining a new policy, it should be:
- Specific: define which document and emails should be stored where. Your policy should spell out to colleagues exactly which kinds of emails and records should be stored in which SharePoint list or library, and what kind of metadata needs to be attached.
- Clear: your policy should be unambiguous, don’t use vague or overly-technical language that colleagues won’t understand.
- Reliable and uniform: it should be easy for your colleagues to understand the purpose of the policy, understand why they need to follow it, and explain what impact it will have on their roles. You need to be able to sum up why they should follow the new email and records management policy (stress benefits – “it will make your life easier in the long run”) and make it easy to actually enact (retrain employees who struggle with SharePoint and use tools like harmon.ie to more easily manage emails).
- Inclusive and comprehensive: your policy should have a wide enough scope for it to actually be actionable. While you want it to be specific (as in point 1), it should also be broad enough to incorporate change or unforeseen circumstances.
Once you have defined a policy, you need to drive this throughout the business. This is about more than simply entering it into dry policy document no one ever reads. You’ll need to push this forward with training, poster and email campaigns and similar efforts.
Make turning policy into practice easier
We understand that one of the biggest challenges your users have when it comes to following email and records management policies is that in SharePoint, this is pretty hard to do. And that’s why we created harmon.ie. harmon.ie is an add-in to the Outlook client, so users can drag and drop emails and data to and from SharePoint without leaving the email window. This simple feature makes it so much easier for colleagues to follow your policy and significantly increases chances of success.
Try a free download today to see what harmon.ie can do for you.