Enforcement of Policy is Key to Successful Content Management

I wanted to talk about everyone’s favorite subject, email management. Yes, I know your eyes just rolled to the back and you’re thinking of the tech guys that have lectured you in the past about cleaning up your inbox and that you have storage limits and the like. But I want to get away from the tech side and talk very briefly about the policy side.

I would like to touch on the importance of an email policy. An email policy is pretty clear-cut and simple right? Well, if it so simple why do so few organization have a formal email policy or, for that matter, any email policy oversight. Yes email is, or should be, addressed in the employee handbook and if you have an IT person they will most likely come by from time to time and lecture you about having too much email in your inbox. However, it seems that much of the time, management has not fully bought in to the whole idea of an email policy or enforcement of the policy. Many times management just lets IT be responsible for email policy enforcement. Of course, IT should play a role in development and enforcement but there really should be an oversight team that includes IT, legal and records management,  and they should have the backing of the C-Level guys. Every organization’s email policy will be different and oversight will vary, and therefore the makeup of the over sight team will differ from situation to situation. However, most policies should address a few basic concepts:

  • Acceptable usage
  • Signature blocks
  • Effective usage
  • Personal usage
  • Ownership
  • Privacy
  • Retention and disposition

What should not differ from situation to situation is that top-level management support of the written email policy.  This will help ensure that the policy will be enforced throughout the organization, including management. (If management is not going to adhere to the email policy how can they expect anyone else to?)

By having a clear email policy, organizations reduce legal liabilities, manage content and records for optimal retrieval and reduce the cost of storing outdated or useless information. The key to the success for any email content management policy relies on management buy-in.

Miller Montague 7/12/2010

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One Response to Enforcement of Policy is Key to Successful Content Management

  1. satansparakeet says:

    I disagree on most of that. While I understand the need to have a policy that discourages inappropriate and/or personal usage and signatures, the truth is that almost every email policy is both unenforceable and annoying to users. The only real reason to have a policy in place is so that you can legally distance yourself from the employees who get out of line and more easily take action against them for violating policies rather than simply for being stupid.

    Taking retention as an example, people will keep what they feel like keeping if they are in any way tech savvy and unless you take draconian measures to stop them. Archiving happens with a click of a button in most clients, work emails can be forwarded to personal accounts at any time, and employees seldom take retention seriously. If your policies are strict enough and you have a high enough buy in within your organization, you may be able to minimize unnecessary retention and the liability associated with it, but to be safe you should assume that every email you and your coworkers write will last forever.

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