Because email is used so extensively for purposes of communication, collaboration and content management by information workers and the organizations that employ them, it represents the primary source about how information flows within a company, and between companies and their business partners. For example, email data stores contain:
- Data on what information workers are doing during working hours. This information includes data on emails sent and received, to whom and from whom they are sent and received, files sent and received, how employees responded or did not respond to various communications, the tasks they assign to themselves or to others, the appointments they set, where they will be at specific times, requests that they make of others, etc. Moreover, because social media, real time communications, voicemail and other content types are often integrated with email, email archives often contain a wealth of information on other modes of communications used by employees.
- Information about how they collaborate with fellow employees, customers, business partners and others.
- Information about how employees support internal workflows and key business processes across the organization.
- Information on when employees work.
- Information on how employees work, such as sharing content with others or sending content to their personal accounts.
- Information about whether or not employees are complying with corporate policies, such as appropriate use or data leakage policies.
Clearly, email contains the primary source of information about content flows within an organization. Because decision makers rarely have the tools available to extract meaningful data from this rich content source, they lack much of the insight into their organizations that would help them to ask better questions, make better decisions about how to manage their companies, respond more effectively to customers, or satisfy their compliance obligations – just a few examples of how this information might be used. In short, decision makers need three fundamental capabilities:
- Insight about what is being said and transmitted via email; who is generating, receiving and responding to this information and content; and where this information is being sent and from whom it is being received.
- The ability to prioritize investigations based on these content flows.
- The ability to perform triage on email content at the beginning of an investigation in order to minimize the effort and intrusiveness required to completely it fully.
It is important to note that by “investigations”, we are not referring to the invasion of individuals’ privacy, nor are we talking about monitoring user behavior for the purpose of unreasonable or excessive control. While some may be sensitive to a misapplied notion of monitoring or investigating corporate email, particularly in light of the early June 2013 revelations about US government activities focused on widespread information gathering from email and other sources, what we are discussing here is much more about understanding how information flows through an organization’s email system and how decision makers can use this insight and intelligence more effectively to meet their legal, regulatory and best practice obligations. The goal of improving insight through the appropriate application of Messaging Intelligence is to enable better decision-making and to understand the context about the activity of the organization without invading privacy.
We have written a white paper that provides more detail on this topic – you can download it here.