E-Calendar Records

By John Phillips posted 09-15-2011 08:50


As amazing as technology systems are in their ability to enhance creating, sharing, and processing information more efficiently and effectively, it still amazes me how many ways we discover that the complete paper-less office is still just fantasy. In recently reviewing many major ECM/ERM vendors’ software offerings first-hand, a major failure in their ability to manage electronic records was discovered. It is still difficult to easily capture actual electronic calendars in a meaningful, useable, and credible format. In fact, most ECM/ERM software representatives I spoke with were not even sure of whether or not their software could perform this function. “We’ll have to get back to you on that” was a common reply. It seems we still discover work habits that need more assistance from better software capabilities.

Now I know that we can capture Outlook.pst files, reload them to Outlook, and regenerate an individual’s calendar from those files. However, embedded in that data file, are many records including contacts, emails, and tasks. Each of these separate types of records can have differing retention and privacy rules that need to be applied to be in compliance with an organization’s overall information governance policies. In addition, since there is a growing tolerance in some organizations for employees to use email to some extent for personal use, those items considered personally private will probably further complicate differentiating information that needs to be preserved from that which should not be preserved.

Thus, it is not easy to produce a PST file for inspection during audits, e-discovery, or FOIA requests without potentially compromising e-records that should not be disclosed. We are in a sense, back to a challenge of identifying specific e-records for production similar to those challenges identified with database files as was discussed in a previous posting to this Blog. In this case, one must use an Outlook feature to personally save an actual calendar item or range of items.

To accomplish this electronic record-keeping action, one needs to open an appointment entry in an Outlook Calendar, and perform a File, Save As command. This will result in a dialogue box asking if the appointment or a range of calendar items are to be saved. By selecting a Date Range, a subset of the calendar can be saved, along with all appointments during that date range (without much differentiation regarding retention rules or privacy). Or one could save just a single appointment entry (which would probably seldom be useful). These calendar entries are saved as *.ics format files in the directory of your choice. Interestingly, one can specify a date range and modify slightly what is included in the saved file with respect to full or partial details of the data.







When the calendarname.ics files are opened later within Outlook they just appear displayed next to the primary Calendar view for that PST file. If one tries to scroll forward or backward out of the captured date range, no data is shown for that particular Calendar. Nice. But not exactly what you want to be doing with your time every day, right? I thought we were supposed to be having emails and other electronic objects automatically captured and classified for us with all that great ECM/ERM software that is available. I am not hearing of any “automated” solutions to this dilemma. Feel free to inform me if you know of any!

This is why printing calendars to paper to preserve records of meetings attendance is still the norm for many organizations. Why is this important? Public records, open records laws, FOIA requests and e-discovery during litigation may dictate the production of items like calendars that used to be nice simple paper documents. You could take your calendar off the wall or your Franklin Planner page and simply reproduce it on a paper copier and hand it to someone. Not anymore! Now it is done with File/Save As/Date Range, etc. And you had better remember what you named it and where you put it. It would be great if an ECM/ERM software vendor had a more “automated” manner in which to regularly capture e-calendars as discrete records.

Some days I think we might be better off with Tablets for preserving our information. Not Tablet Computers! Clay Tablets! No long term information preservation issues. They last for generations.

#E-mail #e-discovery #outlook #ElectronicRecordsManagement #calendars #FOIA