People, polices and technology; can you run a successful business with just one of these?
Jeff Laubhan – Waterford Technologies
You can run a reasonably productive business, but at some point, office procedure and the ability to carry out business goals breaks down if you don’t have all three of these areas.
In our recent effort to explore the disconnects in organizations, we have found that most people still don’t understand that all three of these must function together cohesively.
People can do wondrous things- they can implement quotas, find and categorize records, but without a policy, what’s the point? People will go around the system. In our business, we get asked about user managed archiving but categorization will vary from one person to the next. If you layer on policies, it can be very challenging to implement without automation.
Policies with regard to email are created to ensure that employees capitalize on the benefit of email usage and curtail the potential liability of its use. Typically, all email users are mandated within that policy to use their work email conscientiously, professionally and ethically. But what happens when someone doesn’t adhere to those policies? How will you even know?
Without technology, it will be hard to measure the implementation of the policies. For example, a company might have a retention period in email of just 90 days but it’s really more of a suggestion than a rule. Without technology, people will just print emails, forward a copy back to themselves or find some other wacky way of keeping information – perhaps getting creative enough to forward that email on to their Gmail account. Clients leverage technology to automatically apply rules after the human aspect and policies are defined.
One of our clients recently implemented our email archiving software, deciding to capture all data going forward to ensure their policies were being followed and eliminating the human categorization from the mix. However, senior management was concerned about the smoking gun of past emails- so they gave their employees 90 days to clean up their mailboxes before pulling data into the archive. One might argue that this is too lenient- allowing their users the ability to delete relevant information. On the flip side though, going forward, they would be very careful about what they put in corporate email because they knew everything was being captured.
Another client struggled with what the right policy was for internet and email usage. They hadn’t reviewed their policies in years and used the opportunity to leverage technology to implement better policies based on real usage. With our Insight reporting software, they analyzed email usage patterns and better crafted a policy based on real results for a month.
Below is a sample of this client’s email policy.
- Write well-structured emails that adhere to established business practices and make sure that the subject is short and descriptive. It wasn’t until they reviewed emails that they realized their employees were using emails as a texting system, often times the emails contained long subject lines and nothing in the body.
- Email messages transmitted outside the districts must include a signature, including your name, job title, school name, school contact information and the disclaimer presented later in this policy. There seemed to be confusion by people not signing emails or signing with just a signature. If someone else picked it up, not only might they not know who it was but they wouldn’t know what organization it was from.
- Users should spell check all emails prior to transmission. Because people were using emails in a cavalier manner, it was reflecting poorly on the district. With spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and poor over all email tone, parents were questioning the integrity of the school- “If these teachers can’t spell check an email then what kind of education are my children getting?”
- Do not send unnecessary attachments. Because attachments take up the most space, in analyzing the top attachment file types, they found large files that, under the policy, should have been put up on the SharePoint portal and a link sent around. In addition, an unwarranted amount of personal emails such as vacation and baby pictures were being sent through the school system.
- Do not send emails that may be hurtful to others. Today, because email is so easy to write and quickly fire out, in analyzing the system they found that malicious emails were being sent around. There were several examples but in a FOIA (public records request) it was found that two teachers were talking very disparagingly about a child. When the parent subpoenaed all emails, they were very upset that the teachers who were trusted with the child’s education were talking that way.
- Do not write emails in capital letters. Typing in capital letters is equivalent to yelling at the recipient of the email. This might seem like a small issue, but emails written in all capital letters can be construed as aggressive. Although that might have been the intention, the school decided it was inappropriate and wrote it into the policy
- Only mark emails as urgent if they really are urgent. With so many emails being sent around we all have to prioritize what emails to review first. This is especially true of teachers who have limited time (recess, off hours, etc.) to answer emails.
- If an email has been sent back and forth more than 3 times, it is a good idea to use the telephone to finish the conversation. It’s easy to continue answering and sending emails back and forth but the school decided an easier resolution after a certain period would be to pick up the phone and call
- Email users will make every attempt to answer emails within at least 8 working hours, but users must endeavor to answer priority emails within 4 hours. Although this can be challenging for teachers, they need to put the best foot forward internally and with parents, who live in a world where people typically answer emails in a timely manner. The school outlined a time frame for responding.