Why Should We Get Out of Email?

Moses from History of the World Part 1Last week I had the privilege of having dinner with a brilliant gentleman from my college days, Alex. Some may know of Alex as he the person who is responsible for my moniker, “Pie.” We had a great conversation that was mostly devoid of ‘remember when’ threads.

Alex is an independent lawyer in a city in the southern US. He has been practicing for quite some time and after delving into what I do for a living, he went into a rant on legal discovery, both paper and electronic.

He flat out accused many law firms of making large discovery requests in order to make money reviewing the results. Regardless of the outcome of the case, the billable hours accrued can turn a tidy profit for a law firm. He even shared a story of one case when the amount of discovery turned out to be very small and the firm dropped the case as they wouldn’t be able to make money from it.

While not all firms are like that, it does trigger certain behaviors and advice that in the grand scheme should not occur. We should be working to do what is right for our organization without being scared of ‘what if’ scenarios.

Leave it Out of Email

Alex told me that the one piece of advice he gives to clients is to not put anything in email. Pick up the phone and call. If it goes into email, assume that it will never be private.

There are many reasons for why this is sound advice:

  • Email can be readily hacked. Any security that makes it ‘secure’ will inevitably make it unusable.
  • A discovery request can occur at any time. Even if you eliminate email after 30 days, if a request comes in on day 29, that email has to be shared.
  • There are two sides to every email. Just because you don’t have the email anymore doesn’t mean the recipient no longer has it. They may have even sent it on to more people.

His advice, don’t put things in email. Don’t do it. Call. Any written status reports should be purely factual. Don’t put anything in email that you don’t want to see in the public eye.

Alex then shared a story that made my document management roots quiver. When working on a Discovery project, he insists that status reports should just report facts, not findings. More importantly, he says they should not be versioned. The status reports should just be the final deliverable document over the course of its evolution.

No history. No tracking. Nothing discoverable.

Why don’t we just just role back everything we’ve tried to accomplish for the past two decades?

eDiscovery for the Masses

There are two issues at play here. The first is creating evidence. I am of the belief that if you are not doing anything wrong you are fine. People still want to see proof of innocence. The advice to keep sensitive information out of email is sound.

Scene from Life of BrianThat doesn’t make it realistic. It is one thing to advise the owner of a company to keep certain information out of email. It is another to get everyone in an organization to do the same. There will be times that rule is not followed. The email may not be negative in nature, but if it is discoverable, you will be paying for people to review that email.

This is where technology can actually help. If advanced eDiscovery tools are available to smaller firms, they won’t be crushed by the large discovery costs. When larger firms realize that they cannot make all their money reviewing documents from discovery requests, maybe organizations can start making decisions based upon what will help them the most and not what will protect them from excessive legal costs.

This is the Reality

Alex’s advice isn’t wrong. It is the right advice for his clients. They do not have the resources to get it done any other way. He doesn’t have the resources to do it for them.

It is still the wrong answer. We need to change things so that the advice isn’t needed. We need to take this reality and see what we can do to fix it.

This is an opportunity for the industry to actually do real good and not simply sell software. Making the world a better place for everyone is a worthwhile goal.

Better eDiscovery helping keep small business afloat? What a concept.

Box Just Threw Down the Gauntlet

Clint Eastwood as Dirty HarryLast week, Box held their annual conference. Many announcements were expected and the announcement of Workflow coming to Box in 2015 was quite exciting. If you want a high-level look at everything that happened, check out Chris Walker’s quick thoughts on BoxWorks.

None of that is why I am writing this post.

Buried in the wave of tweets were two game-changing announcements. Box announced Retention Management and Auto-Classification of Content.

That’s right. Information Governance behind the scenes on an application that people actually use AND a way to get content in the right retention bucket without people having to intervene.

All in the cloud.

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Executing on Information Governance

I had the pleasure of attending the Information Governance Exchange in Washington, DC last week. It was a different conference from many that I have attended in the past. Attended by senior people that own Information Governance at their organizations, there were a lot of discussions about how to execute strategies to making Information Governance work.

This was not theory, it was hard advice and grounded discussions. In fact, it was the most BS free Information Governance event I had ever attended.

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The Two Sides of Information Governance

Sometimes things just fall together. This past weekend, I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with my sons, reveling as they experienced all the quirks for the first time.

Then on Monday, I had a conversation about Information Governance with a fellow practitioner. They remarked that there were two pillars of Information Governance. At first I agreed, Value (Information Management) and Risk (Records Management/eDiscovery) are the two dynamics at play in Information Governance.

I then realized that they were really two sides of the same coin. They are not as separate as two pillars might be. They are intertwined. After a little thought, I decided that the headpiece to the Staff of Ra from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was actually the perfect paradigm.

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The IGI Tackles Information Governance for All

The Two Bobs, Office SpaceThe Information Governance Initiative (IGI) released their 2014 Annual Report this week. I was actually sent a preview copy, but I was at the beach and it took me a while to get to reading the entire report. I could have readily written a simple write-up based upon the great executive summary, but I wanted to dig deeper.

I am glad that I did. It is easy to argue with the conclusions but without reading the facts behind them, it is wasted effort. That is one thing that I really like about the report, there was real thought into what the results of their surveys and conversations meant. That is something that you don’t see in many of these reports.

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Joining the Practitioners at the Information Governance Conference

The Information Governance Conference LogoLast week I talked about my upcoming visit to the Information Governance Exchange, which is an event filled with business owners and decision makers. The next week in September, the 8th through the 10th, I will be winging my way up to Hartford, CT for the Information Governance Conference (InfoGovCon).

The InfoGovCon will be filled with practitioners participating in an agenda filled with different perspectives on Information Governance from multiple industries. There are also training sessions from ARMA, the Information Governance Initiative, and many others.

While there, I am presenting on Removing the “Work” from Information Governance. Sounds interesting but what does that mean?

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Information Governance and Records Management Need to get Radical Together

A couple weeks ago I ranted that we were beginning to make many of the same mistakes with Information Governance that we had made with Enterprise Content Management (ECM), and to some extent Records Management. The post stimulated posts from James Lappin and George Parapadakis.

I respect both of them and it is entertaining to see them taking completely opposite approaches to the problem. It would be entertaining, for me at least, to see them debate the issue. I suspect it would get quite…energetic.

Of course, being on extremes, they both missed the mark.

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