Thursday, December 11, 2014

How do you find your important corporate email?

I've heard numerous reports about companies spending large sums on staff salaries searching through thousands of email messages to prove or disprove something in court cases. 

Once, business relied on physical filing systems and could generally locate an important memo, report or letter provided it was filed correctly.

Now that everyone has access to email, not only has traffic increased, but it's now harder to find something important when it needs to be found.

Not only is it essential to have a well structured filing regime on one's server drives and regular backups, it's essential to be able to find email when needed.

Let's go back to the 60s and I'll tell you about a system that worked then and will work now.

I joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at 18 and was originally an equipment clerk working in a major warehouse/distribution centre. Some of the procedures and practices impressed me greatly. The RAAF had supply systems that worked like a Swiss watch and could have an aircraft component for a broken aircraft despatched by air within half an hour, sometimes less.

Another system that impressed me was the list of standard subject headings for every piece of correspondence. If something written was about Personnel, you'd simply look up an alphabetic list and choose the most relevant Personnel subject heading. Once a heading had been allocated, it remained for the duration of the communication.

Correspondence was easy to find when we wanted it.

Turn the clock forward 50 years and the same system could be used with email in corporations. Now we use keywords and keyword phrases for almost everything, so using keywords in email should be an extension of that. Here's an example:

Halle works in the Finance Department of a large organisation and sends a monthly report of expenditure to all department heads. The subject line of her monthly email always reads "BUDGET - Monthly Report for MONTH".

When anyone replies to her or discusses anything to do with the report, it MUST have a subject line commencing with "BUDGET - Monthly Report for MONTH".

Now, when someone wants to find an email on the corporate server, they can sort by sender, recipient, date, department and BUDGET. The probability of find the email they want quickly is increased tremendously.

What do you think? What type system does your organisation have for storing and finding email? Comment below and let us know.

Robin

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