To File or Not to File, That is the Question

A few weeks ago, we discussed the trials and tribulations that a private equity firm was having in the area of e-mail filing.  Secretaries routinely spent 2+ hours per day filing e-mail messages.  I received numerous comments from readers but Chuck Piotrowski, Corporate Records Manager at Central Vermont Public Service, engaged me in a series of e-mails discussing the pros and cons of filing messages.  This is a discussion that will continue and I’m sure other readers may wish to chime in as well.

An edited version of that correspondence follows:

I love the Basex newsletter. In the past I have been mostly in alignment with your opinions, but in this instance I am not.

I can think of at least 5 reasons to organize e-mail in a business:
1.) Collaboration – Share with those who need it and reduce redundancy.  When people leave the company they leave behind a mountain of unorganized e-mail.
2.) Business Continuity.
3.) E-discovery – who wants to wade through tens of thousands of unorganized e-mails during discovery?  Search engines are good, but they do miss a lot.
4.) Legal Retention – if you don’t organize by subject you’d have to keep all e-mail forever.
5.) Cost of maintaining info-garbage.  What costs more, backing up the joke of the day or having the employee delete the joke of the day daily?

Basex is a great resource and thanks for reading my feedback!

I don’t disagree with your points but the basic problem I have with filing e-mail is that it makes you choose one file folder (not possible to choose multiples unfortunately) and do we put that e-mail in under John Doe or Project XY?

The time it takes for the knowledge worker to think about this each time creates friction and each bit of friction slows down the pace.

All this serves to point out that e-mail as it now stands is an immature medium and that we need to find better places to memorialize important issues.

Do you agree?

I do agree with you that choosing one folder for an e-mail with multiple subjects is a conundrum.  A conundrum that the e-mail user should not be bothered with for every e-mail.  Now, it may be in Joe’s interest (or Joe’s company interest) to have Joe go through a bit of analysis upon saving the e-mail.

To your point [that] e-mail doesn’t have built in classification tools…yet, but you can make some EDMS systems demand a classification upon depositing an e-mail.   Some vendors even have “auto-classification tool” that will scan your e-mail repository and add classification tags.

15 years ago I heard “Send me an email, because my voice mail is full” and now…how many times have you heard, “If you really want to reach me, give me a call, because my inbox is too full!”

Chuck, now we’re getting onto a slippery slope, having knowledge workers start to become knowledge engineers.  Let me give it some additional thought.


Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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