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©2005

You are not going to tell me that e-mails are records are you? - November 2005

It appears that the first use of e-mail was at MIT in 1961.

Heaven take pity on the poor person who inflicted this bounty, or curse upon the business world.

I actually love and cannot operate effectively without the use of emails be they incoming or outgoing correspondence.

Today, we are advised, or was that yesterday, the following statistics: Worldwide there are now 45 billion e-mails created each day, and 22 billion or 49% of these are business related. In addition 60% of critical business data is contained in e-mails. E-mail storage needs are growing at 40% per year, and that printing volumes increase by 40% in an office after e-mail is introduced. Sources: PWC and Osterman Research.

How are we handling this avalanche of incoming and outgoing e-correspondence which we are advised is business related?

Throw technology at it, and that will solve the problem!

I often hear quoted that there are too many e-mails for humans to be able to address the issue.

HEY, wait a minute, do not humans create and receive these e-mail messages and decide if they are business oriented or non records?

I get lost with this concept that the machines will do all of the work for us and that we as the human interface with our clients and the organisation are something to be bypassed and replaced by some software, technology or machine!

We do the work, and the software, technology and the machines are our assistants to minimise our workload or to speed up the process. Do I want my IT system to weed out all of the e-mail spam? Heck YES! And in caps! And do I want the IT processes to filter our all of the viruses, Trojan horses and the rest of the garbage? Again, a big YES!

Do I want the IT system and the software, technology and machines to interpret the 22 billion e-mails that have business relevance and require individual, executive or corporate decisions to be made? Hell NO! Thatís my job, thatís my responsibility, and thatís my intellect.

Are there some e-mails that I request to be replied to as a response to some process or sales campaign, or community input that I organised to be performed via some automated process to be managed by the IT System and software of a machine? I have to answer, YES!

But this is not the majority of business e-mails that the IT industry is promising to grab for me and take the responsibility of managing. What the IT industry claims to be able to do is WHAT! Automate my intellectual working process so I can become a zombie from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Please, give me a break.

E-mail worthy of capture is a business document which, in the majority of cases requires the attention of a real live person. That person decides how to address the content of the e-mail, & that person desirably has an Electronic Records & Document Management System (ERDMS) with appropriate facilities that allows the real live person to index the incoming or outgoing e-mail (e-correspondence) & place it into an electronic file (an e-record) so that it has content & context in the business process. This is what Records Management (RM) or Records & Information Management (RIM) is all about, & all I ask is please, have the IT industry treat me some respect & not to insult my intelligence with the promise to do away with me & make it all happen without any human input.

As they say at the gym, or on the sporting field, NO PAIN NO GAIN! The same goes for the Records & Information Management (RIM); if the correspondence has to be read by a human or created by a human that human should take on the responsibility of indexing that data with the appropriate fields so that we, let alone anyone else can find it again.

It is called good business process & practice & the issue of findability should be high on the agenda along with a Business Classification Scheme (BCS) which is the foundation for doing some of the desirable automation with the linking of records to Records General Retention & Disposition Schedules. A BSC in place could possibly address the latest & greatest buzz phrase, Information Life-Cycle Management - ILM & make it a reality rather than hype or blue sky stuff as it currently stands. Maybe the clams of nirvana or utopia via the use of ILM could be realised IF, & only IF a workable BCS happened to be in place before ILM was implemented. Having a BCS in place is good, NO essential RIM practice.

Go e-mail! I love you!

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president & national director, has been involved in records management for 31 years. He has his own consulting & training business near Perth, Western Australia, & has tutored in recordkeeping & archival storage & preservation at Perthís 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.