One of the abiding concerns of records managers is how to manage emails. Theoretically it is simple; they should be managed as you would other records. Practically, however, the situation is fraught with complexity as it involves someone without senior authority enforcing the corporate records management policy on common user behaviour; there is invariably a significant kick back from staff when the records manager says ‘you must always save and file your emails into the correct folders to ensure our access/storage/disposition policies are being adhered to’; to the extent that records managers often give up in despair.
Adding to the problem, evidential correspondence is often deleted by IT department policies restricting the size of inboxes. Users are left between a rock and a hard place; either (a) conform to the onerous task of saving emails to folders or (b) risk not having evidence of a transaction when a case is brought forth over an activity. And the busier the member of staff is, the more likely they are to fall into the second category.
I know we can do so much better than this. What solutions are available? Some higher-end electronic records management systems (EDRMS) provide a solution that plugs into email clients which can make life easier for users. But these are often profit-cripplingly expensive, under-deliver on ease of use, and when your email client gets updated it falls over as the plugin is incompatible.
There are a number of simple, cheap alternatives however. Alfresco, the open-source EDRMS, provides an Outlook 2003 plugin that readily files emails to a folder. And for the past four years our team have been using Mail Manager and from a records management perspective it is heaven sent. With this application, when you send an email a pop-up window appears showing suggested folders to file the email into (based on past choices) from a collection of folders (defined by either my team or I). Double click on the folder and bingo; the email is sent, moved to your ‘deleted items’ folder and filed into the relevant shared drive, personal drive or Sharepoint folder:
The plugin also provides easy and advanced search functionality making findability a doddle. But the kicker is the ability for a records manager to specify and update a folder list and for that folder list to be dynamically propagated to everyone in the team. And if you want to be really authoritarian you can lock the folder list down and force (a) users to only use the folders specified and (b) to file all emails to one of those folders on ‘Send’.
Interested in a demonstration? Just email Oasys and they’ll be happy to set one up.
Sorry, this post has been a bit of a ‘plug’; but Mail Manager has been such a strong solution for our records management needs I’m hoping you will find it useful too. Does anyone have any other Outlook plugins they use for records management? I’d be interested to hear about them in the comments.