Irish firms in email archive crisis

5 Jul 2007

Emails containing details about commitments entered into by companies are not being managed systematically, according to enterprise content management (ECM) association AIIM Europe. Some 43pc of respondents to an AIIM survey said they had little or no confidence these emails were readily available in a company archive.

Responsibility for archiving emails was left to individual employees in almost one third of Irish organisations surveyed, while in 48pc of companies the IT department looked after this task; the legal department was entrusted with archiving important emails in just 5pc of companies. The records management department oversaw this function in 5pc of organisations and it was left to individual business units in 10pc of firms.

Doug Miles, managing director of AIIM UK, told there is widespread confusion within business as to how to manage important emails. “Mostly people don’t appreciate they are making commitments over email. On an email thread various people make different comments on a topic. In the end that affects the final commitment.

“People assume email is on the backup tape. The backup tape is not an archive option, it’s a recovery option. It may not have easily recovered emails about a contract that was entered into three years ago, for example.”

He pointed out that some firms print emails and then rescan them into an electronic document management system to save filing cabinet space, an unnecessary process if proper email archiving is in place.

There is a debate in the ECM industry as to how emails should be managed, whether it should be left to human discretion to determine what should be archived at the touch of a button or whether everything should automatically be archived under searchable categories.

Miles suggested the former might be the way to go as only 2pc of emails would be relevant for archiving purposes. “People know what’s important and you need something to replace that unreliable system of printing out copies of emails,” he said.

Whichever option companies favour, email management needs to be used by companies as part of an overall document management system. “Just using email management won’t give you the categorisation that a proper document or content management system would give you.”

With data protection laws forcing companies to restrict how long customer/client data, including emails, can be kept on file, document management systems can help companies manage the expiration dates for emails, with emails deleting automatically after a fixed time depending on what category it has been filed under.

ECM issues will be addressed at this year’s Info Ireland conference which will take place in Dublin on 18 and 19 September. Organised by AIIM with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the ‘Tame Your Information Beast’-themed event will feature addresses by industry experts and over 25 suppliers will demonstrate their ECM technology.

By Niall Byrne