Tackling the e-mail tsunami

Putting together an effective e-mail management program in any organization means first overcoming some inherent resistance in the organization itself, according to Bassam Zarkout, vice president of products for e-mail management vendor ByteQuest Technologies Inc., Ottawa. There are usually four different groups that can affect the issue: n Information technology staff: This group looks at e-mail management from the systems side of the equation and how it will affect the database. IT workers usually want to limit the size of the database, which in turn means limiting the size of e-mail messages and how long they are kept in the system.

n Users: It's now common for users to copy and forward e-mail messages to other people, which greatly increases the overall volume of e-mail within an organization. With the current management practice of limiting the size of users' mailboxes, some people will simply delete e-mail messages indiscriminately to keep their mailboxes under the allotted size or drag and drop messages onto their desktops, hiding the e-mail from collective view.

n Lawyers: They are concerned about users both destroying e-mail messages and keeping messages in their inboxes that should have been moved to a records file. Legal discovery is very expensive if every user's inbox has to be searched for relevant e-mail messages. And courts have already ruled that the burden is on the party subject to discovery to either deliver all relevant documents or have all of its documents subpoenaed.

n Records managers: They have a duty to make sure their organizations retain all official records, but so far, that has been difficult to do with e-mail messages. Solutions now employed require duplication of most e-mail messages, which creates volume problems for the IT staff. And the larger the organization, Zarkout said, "the more IT will want to make sure that the e-mail management systems conform to the overall IT infrastructure.

"We are past the stage of shoving problems of e-mail management to the side, which is where we were two years ago," he said. "But the problems of these clashing interests has, if anything, become even more acute. In some organizations, these groups haven't even begun talking to each other."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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