Friday, January 30, 2009

What about the big bucket approach?

David Gaynon, CRM has been active in ARMA since 1981. He writes:

Hi Shawn,

I must stress that the following represents my own personal views and not that of my employer.

What if you use a big bucket approach for the management of email. For non managerial employees you provide the option of: (a) immediate purge for information of limited importance; and a defined retention period --say 6 months or 2 years for working papers. For managerial employees they would be provided with the same categories plus a third of 5 or 10 years for business planning. It may be that management will tell you that they will need additional categories such as external communication. This of course drives how you are using email in support of your governance model. This I think will wash out through deployment.

It is useful to consider that correspondence about a business function should not have the same retention as the function itself. For example I believe that all correspondence about the general ledger does not need to be kept as long as the general ledger itself. One may consider that such correspondence is really backup -- a form of drafts which would normally be disposed of once the final version is issued. This of course is difficult to manage at the user level. That is why I have come to believe that the simplified version of email retention that I lay out above is the way to go.

I think sometimes that records managers make a mistake when they seek the perfect solution that eliminates all risk of error. This is most likely not possible and attempting this could prove most expensive. The goal of risk management is not to eliminate risk but to manage it consistent with an organization's tolerance for risk.

I hope this helps. Good luck in your efforts.

David B. Gaynon, CRM
Records Retention Manager/General Affairs
Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA

One vendor's view

As responses to our report are received, they are incorporated into this blog. This post is based on feedback received from Davin Cooke of GWAVA, who offered the following:

"I think you nailed the main reason to hold all email approach - Fancy algorithms and artificial intelligence exist but the criteria for retention is always a moving target, making management of the rules or maintaining a dictionary of terms by category difficult. By keeping all email, and ensuring that there is no rogue archiving on desktops or elsewhere, you can set a global policy and never be caught 3.5 years from now when you discover you should have kept something thanks to a misinterpretation of a message.

"Organizations reap tangible benefits by having retaining all email well beyond compliance. Three additional reasons are:

"1. Intellectual Property Reasons - For both Public and Private sectors, email forms a large percentage of the intellectual property, and its contents reflect the culture of their organizations and once indexed is an excellent resource for decisions. [It] is often paramount in settling internal HR and legal issues.

"2. Email Portability - As well keeping the email in a portable format outside of the messaging system will be very important should you decide to switch platforms or acquire newer technology to leverage its contents.

"3. Less Cost and Waste - Another valuable benefit is the ability to store email in cheaper storage and with less space. Systems like Exchange and GroupWise do not de duplicate as effectively as an archiving solution as messages are stored per PostOffice or MTA Message store. In a multi-post office environment you'd get substantial savings over just keeping it all in the email system."

Our thanks to Mr. Cooke for providing his review of our report.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Records Managers, your assistance is sought

Help Travis County Records Management perfect a recommendation regarding retention of electronic mail records.

Your comments will be incorporated into future blog posts here.

Thanks for your participation!