Capturing Executive Email at the University of Michigan – Campus Case Studies

I recently read two case studies by Aprille Cooke McKay of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan:

CASE 14 – Partnering with IT to Identify a Commercial Tool for Capturing Archival E-mail of University Executives at the University of Michigan

CASE 15 – Will They Populate the Boxes? Piloting a Low-Tech Method for Capturing Executive E-mail and a Workflow for Preserving It at the University of Michigan

These two studies document the three phases in striving to adequately capture and preserve the email of officials at the University of Michigan. The first case study, “Partnering with IT to Identify a Commercial Tool for Capturing Archival E-mail of University Executives at the University of Michigan” outlines the issues encountered when attempting to procure a commercial off-the-shelf email archiving product that will function with multiple email systems and applications while undergoing an overhaul of the IT organization within the university (Phase 1). The second case study, “Will They Populate the Boxes? Piloting a Low-Tech Method for Capturing Executive E-mail and a Workflow for Preserving It at the University of Michigan” describes a pilot to determine if officials would mark their email messages for long-term retention (Phase 2) as well a plan for processing the email and developing a workflow for records transferred to the archives (Phase 3).

I found the first report helpful because even though the team was unsuccessful in selecting an email solution, they shared a detailed explanation of their experiences and lessons learned. In this case, what went wrong is just as informative as what went right. It would be illuminating for organizations undertaking email capture projects to have more case studies like this one.

The second report touches on a number of issues surrounding email management: auto-classification, user motivation and time available for categorization, training, and scalability. In light of ongoing discussions in the records management community about email archiving, I would urge you to check out these useful case studies!

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3 thoughts on “Capturing Executive Email at the University of Michigan – Campus Case Studies

  1. Rick Barry

    I’ve done a couple of consulting engagements years ago on email usage, and the biggest problem was 1) people not designating emails as records with/without archival value, even purely business related and non-controversial emails. In small-group disussions, I found that most people fessed up but said that they were afraid that they would, somehow, be used against them. Executives don’t want to do it because they don’t want sensitive exchanges, discussions of policy options, etc., among themselves to be read by clerks. The behavioral factors, not surpisingly, are more difficult to overcome than the technological ones. Moreover, the users didn’t have a clue what was recordworthy or of archival value. That’s when I became convinced that user-designated recordness was not the way to go and we should look for improved auto-classification, which is much better today than it was then. I was often challenged on that position, because they believed that users surely could do better than auto systems. At that time auto systems were about 80% accurate. As bad as that is, it was many times better than what I saw reviewing actually filed user emails.

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  2. Pingback: Case studies on capturing executive e-mail – Terry's blog

  3. Pingback: Service Accounts for Email Retention | The Schedule

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