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I am a Project Manager and Developer with an emphasis on Enterprise Content Management and Business Process Management systems.

With over 20 years of experience in large and small systems design and implementation. Currently based in the Raleigh NC area.

The views expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my clients and employers.

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Anyone that deals with Enterprise Content Management (ECM) shudders when the subject of email comes up. With good reason! It truly is a massive problem in almost any size of organization. The problem space is itself ill defined and not well understood by anyone. Governments and Corporations large and small struggle with the issue, mostly by either brute force archiving, or ignoring it. It plays a huge role in eDiscovery and can cause innumerable security and personnel issues when it is mismanaged.

First and foremost is a lack of a unified governance consensus in any industry. It is a problem I, and I suspect every other consultant, re-visits every time we work with a new client.

Email is ubiquitous, most people have more than one active email address at any given time, work, home, throwaway accounts, etc. And now with almost every mobile phone capable of sending and receiving emails or at least texts, we have a whole new area of concern, e.g. protecting email and managing it on these devices, a great many of which are personal and not owned assets. Access to email is ever more widespread as well. POP/IMAP/Web Based etc. And then there is forwarding of email from home to office, office to home.

Most organizations have some form of “Acceptable Use” policy that at least peripherally touches on email usage. As always the problem is enforcement and monitoring. If Mega Corp has a policy that forbids forwarding of, or receiving of corporate email on anything other than corporate approved and owned computers, and an employee does forward or receive emails on, say their phone, which they then lose, and as a result a competitor obtains corporate sensitive data, where does the liability for that loss start and stop? Or sensitive HR information is compromised, such as salary figures, or perhaps a sensitive disciplinary action is exposed prematurely to one or more of the affected parties? The list of potential issues is obviously huge. Yet few if any entities have established policies along with compliance monitoring and auditing.

Even now, after countless lawsuits and public news stories, I still encounter people that conduct side business or extensive personal business on a corporate email system and assume they have an expectation of privacy. Email is no more, and quite possibly considerably less, secure than a post card. Even while travelling only on internal networks, email can be inadvertently misdirected, wrongly addressed, intercepted, not delivered, corrupted, or exposed to parties it was never intended for. As a quick aside, never put anything in an email you would not want to see being read aloud on the evening news! 

This post is to set the stage as it were for a series of posts I am planning to help define, understand, and quantify the issues encountered with email in general, but especially as it relates to document management. Over the next several posts we will examine how email is used, and misused, existing solutions to assist in managing it, and methods we all as users can implement to be more conscious of and responsible for our use of a largely mismanaged medium. I hope you will find some benefit in the process, I know I will!


Bob Porter

Posted on Monday, December 14, 2009 5:00 PM | Back to top

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