Simple but Effective Email Management

By Richard Medina posted 03-29-2014 09:16


The good news if you are planning email management (EMM) for ensured retention and defensible disposition is that you don’t need to be perfect – you don’t have to perfectly satisfy your retention demands. You do need to use the Principle of Reasonableness and act In Good Faith. As Jim McGann and Julie Colgan explain,

Courts do not ask, expect or necessarily reward organizations for perfection. Courts do expect, however, that whatever information management tactics an organization undertakes are appropriate to how that particular entity is situated (size, financial resources, regulatory and litigation profile, etc.).

Where to Start

The most important step in EMM is to sort your existing and future email into categories for proper retention and disposition. The most important lesson folks have learned about such sorting is that you should make it simple. The simplest segmentation of email based on retention period that works for most organizations in the early phases of EMM is fairly standard today. Probably the clearest articulation and terminology for it was introduced by the EMM vendor Integro, though the methodology can be used regardless of terminology and without any technology aside from Exchange (and I’m going to assume that most of you use Exchange as the enterprise email system).

Here’s how it works. Divide your email into three classes or virtual “zones”: 1) transient, 2) working, and 3) long-term. These may make up 80%, 15%, and 5% of email volume, respectively.

  • The primary EMM requirement for transient email is that it should be deleted when no longer needed.
  • The primary EMM requirement for working email is that it can be kept (for a period), and that the employee’s use of it not be disrupted.
  • The primary EMM requirement for long-term email is that it be properly retained and governed.

A mature, optimal target EMM state typically looks like the following:

  • Transient emails are retained 90 days and then either reclassified by the user or automatically deleted from Exchange.
  • Working emails are retained 2 years and then either reclassified by the user or automatically deleted. (Most email retrievals have trailed off by 2 years in most organizations.)
  • Working emails are typically retained in the email system (“mixed” with transient emails or segregated into different folders) – but may be retained in Exchange Personal Archive if desired.
  • Long-term emails are retained in an archive separate from the primary email mailboxes. It may be an Exchange archive or a third party EMM or ECM system.
  • Long-term emails may be all be given the same retention period with little to differentiate them – or they may be assigned more complex ECM and RM metadata, and separated into several different retention periods.
  • The simplest setting is to initially assign long-term email a single long retention period – e.g. 7 years – which gets refined and differentiated in later phases of the EMM initiative.

That’s it – but with two additional recommendations. First, I do believe that most organizations can effectively adopt a version of the three virtual zone approach for transient, working and long-term email. But consider initially lengthening the retention periods on transient and working email to encourage adoption without defection and to facilitate change management. Second, I strongly recommend that you consider placing most of your information governance attention on your document repositories. You must have target repositories to put the higher value, higher risk working and long-term emails and attachments or most of your EMM efforts won’t pay off.

#EMM #ElectronicRecordsManagement #DefensibleDisposition #emailmanagement #emailretention