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©2005

e-mail, THE ENEMY! - November 2005

Please tell me why!

They tell me some organisations have banned the use of e-mails in their organisations!

They tell me that e-mails are Evil and should not be something we need to endure!

Well, I can tell you that if you banned me from using e-mails my business, professional and social life would come to an abrupt end.

When I get up in the morning and my PC is out of action I get a PANIC ATTACK. I do not know who I am, or what I need to do, or who my business and professional contacts are, or how to make contact either via phone, or the internet via e-mail. I do not know what the weather is unless its raining outside my window or the sun is shining on my face and waking me up from my dreamtime.

Even when the PC is working my first action is to see who, [if anyone] has been so kind to make contact with me overnight from some far off place in a different time zone and has been thoughtful enough to make contact with me while I was sleeping. If there are no e-mails I suspect that nobody loves me and I am unwanted or that I do not owe money to them or they do not need my assistance with something Records & Information Management – RIM or Micrographiclly related and would like my input.

In other words I LOVE e-MAILS! Without e-mails and or the Internet I could not operate and it is my personal assessment that e-mails are not the evil enemy but that we the users and management or a lack of good management or management process are the EVIL we need to address.

Please tell me why e-mails are this horrendous issue that we cannot get our minds around and such a monster that it cannot be tamed.

What is an e-mail anyhow but just another inward or outward piece of correspondence but in an electronic form?

YES! I know we get too many, but why?

Is it because we or the organisation has signed up with too many list serves or mail centres or newspapers or knowledge providers or whatever? They only do what we asked for and keep us up to date as we requested. OK, we get some we never asked for, I agree.

Is it the fact that the organisation has no policies and procedures for e-mail circulars. Yes! Many internal e-mails are just that, internal circulars gone made without a policy, procedure or process to manage same. In the paper days one had to be in the inner management circle or beg, cajole or take the bosses secretary to lunch to get on the circulation list to receive circulars. It was a power thing. Today we just CC.. or BCC.. everyone we know in the organisation irrespective of need. Guess what, we [more like the whole organisation minus someone lucky enough to have started yesterday or who has been omitted by IT from getting an e-mail address – the Lucky Souls] get inundated with stuff we have no need to know, or care about but we read it anyhow just in case and probably save a copy intentionally or unintentionally.

If we banned e-mails containing JOKES [ha ha!] or the distribution of corporate data, however important or unimportant the information, without the authority to circulate to a specified & controlled e-mail list of persons with a genuine need to know maybe our workload and good management practices could improve.

If I receive an e-mail, what do I do with it [remember e-mails are pieces of correspondence] and if it is a circular I read it and delete it unless it requires me to take some action or I have a need to respond to the correspondence. Do I need to make a copy and store it, or print it and put it on file? Hell NO! The content is in the corporate memory which was placed there by the initiator or sender in the Corporate RIM – ERDMS system. The system did the management of ONE only original e-mail and not hundreds or thousands of copies. Remember it isn't Records Management - PLURAL, it is Record Management - SINGULAR.

Now please don’t tell me there is no electronic capability to capture e-mails into a Records & Document Management System – ERDMS! Because if there is none, well guess what, the problem is not our friend the evil e-mail but the lack of effective management processes or evil management inefficiency.

E-mails like any record or document should pass the test of being of sufficient value to be a part of the business process and need to be incorporated into the organisations record management system.

I recommend the following procedure involving five criteria for your assessment:

The criteria are:

1. Does the document or object, [physical or electronic] convey information considered essential or relevant in making a decision?

2. Does the document or object, [physical or electronic] convey information upon which others (including the organisation) will be, or are likely to be, making decisions affecting their business operations, or rights and obligations under legislation?

3. Does the document or object, [physical or electronic] commit the organisation or its officers to certain courses of action or the commitment of resources or provision of services?

4. Does the document or object, [physical or electronic] convey information about matters of public safety or public interest, or involve information upon which contractual undertakings are entered into?

5. Is the information likely to be needed for future use, or is it of historical value or interest?

It is therefore essential that great care is exercised to ensure the decision-making trail, which includes any of the documents or objects, [physical or electronic], e-mail or electronic transaction which meet any of the above five criteria, is recorded and placed on the relevant corporate file in the RIM – ERDMS system.

As in all business processes that humans manage or input to, we receive information in the way of incoming correspondence, be that hardcopy or electronic. We read the information and make a decision as to the validity of the information and if it should, or should not go into the corporate RIM - ERDMS system and act accordingly. The same goes for outgoing correspondence. It just happens that in our current dilemma with the supposed evil, this correspondence is in an e-mail format.

Nothing more and nothing less!

Happy e-mailing! You can’t live without it!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 31 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

The author, Laurie Varendorff of the Varendorff Records Management Consultancy - TVC - Helping clients manage their e-World gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to be negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.