Chief Legal Counsel
One of the world’s largest publicly traded companies, this company is a market-leading manufacturer of network equipment provides end-to-end network integration and management solutions.
This is the story of a global technology leader and its Chief Legal Counsel as the business champion of a best-in-class, corporate-wide knowledge management, retention and compliance program – with the legal group leading the charge and subsequently bringing in IT, sales and other departments on board. The company’s pragmatic approach to flexing technology to the needs of the business is a success story of how today’s leaders can apply lessons learned from the SharePoint trenches to empower cross-organizational technology adoption, use and compliance, in order to achieve business goals.
The company was facing a challenge familiar to many enterprise organizations: the need to capture and store emails, documents, and attachments in an organized manner, so they could be found later on. Its employees had come up with their own solution-of-least-resistance: storing emails in Outlook, and storing documents on shared drives, in hundreds of different folders. This led to “folder creep” and unchecked duplication as more and more folders were created across multiple departments. Adding to the folder creep, documents were could not being cataloged and were often duplicated by saving multiple copies on the shared drives and by distributing copies via email attachments. Due to this document proliferation, the latest version could not be located when needed, to say nothing about the vast wasted storage space of duplicated document copies.
The first-level solution was to implement SharePoint, which allowed employees to store documents centrally and easily. However, this was not entirely successful in curbing the folder and document creep and did not address the need for proper indexing, storing and retrieval of files and emails. Employees found it hard to actually use SharePoint; in particular assigning metadata was too complicated.
The web systems administrator and SharePoint administrator, summed up the persisting issues: “When I looked at other team sites, I noticed that people seemed to see SharePoint as another file folder. Employees would create a new folder, and then a new one, and then a new one, essentially replicating shared drives now in SharePoint.”
Users, it turned out, were treating SharePoint like they had their personal Outlook clients and were still not applying the pertinent metadata to each file. This practice actually increased the problems it sought to solve, especially when employees shared documents as most continued to share as attachments in emails, exacerbating the version control
challenges. It was clear the company needed a better, easy-to-use and scalable way to ensure employees would not only adopt SharePoint and apply the proper metadata to documents, but also change the way they handled email attachments –from appending files to using SharePoint links.
The company’s Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel knew that unless his team helped solved the business need – make document sharing and storing seamless for employees, and solve for it easily and quickly – the company would not be able to meet the stringent regulatory and legal requirements expected.
The company had strict policies already in place to ensure compliance and audit standards were maintained, with SharePoint at the center of their knowledge and document management infrastructure.
“We’ve recently rolled out a retention policy that stipulates emails aren’t documents of record unless they’re stored in SharePoint,” explained the Chief Legal Counsel. “Emails in Exchange cannot be assumed records. If an email contains something important, you need to get it out of the inbox and put it in SharePoint.”
The company had run up against the Last Mile dilemma: employees could import attachments from emails in Outlook and stored on Exchange servers to SharePoint, but not the emails themselves. The company needed a solution that would allow the emails to be stored like documents, and one that would make it easy for employees to add the metadata needed for classification and retrieval of all SharePoint files.
Such a solution also had to accommodate the need for various departments within the company to access the same document from multiple SharePoint sites. Because attachments moved into SharePoint were stripped from their associated emails, it was possible that relevant information might be missing when the document was called up. What the company needed was a fail-safe way to get the knowledge management and compliance job done, every time.
The company found its “Last Mile” solution with harmon.ie and its seamless ability to add emails and documents to their proper destination in SharePoint, including the automatic indexing and classification of such documents.
“This is great,” said the SharePoint administrator upon an initial demonstration of harmon.ie. “I can just drag an email. It saves as a message, the attachment’s on it. Works perfectly.”
With the implementation of harmon.ie, the company was able to eradicate old habits and simultaneously enable not only easy compliance, but seamless, cross-organizational collaboration. Since harmon.ie’s email-based sidebar is incorporated directly into
Outlook, users no longer have to tediously switch between windows to move documents and emails into SharePoint as it is all done automatically.
Even more importantly, harmon.ie’s automatic prompting for required metadata ensures all departments needing to feed into the compliance trail are doing so, without expending special effort, while making all documents and emails stored in SharePoint easily searchable. In fact, the “one window, no pain” functionality of harmon.ie has increased adoption of SharePoint significantly across the organization – starting with the legal department, and making its way into IT, sales and other departments.
And although employees still use hundreds of individual sites across the system, they are always accessing a single version of truth for each document, with its associated metadata for proper indexing and classification. No longer do a dozen different versions of a crucial document exist, raising the question of which to use; nor are important details missing because they were not saved into the correct version. Now, when users drag files into specific folders through the help the harmon.ie sidebar, they get immediately prompted for the specific metadata required. Only after they enter that metadata, are users allowed to store the document. And when a document needs to be emailed, harmon.ie prompts users to send a SharePoint attachment link rather than a traditional attachment, letting everyone see the same and latest version.
All of this is a boon to the Legal Department, since emails are now easily storable within SharePoint which helps ensure compliance with information governance and regulatory standards as well as the company’s own policy that emails are only considered records once in SharePoint.
“Every library that we’ll use is accessible to me in harmon.ie,” said the Chief Counsel. “Even for departments that haven’t done custom content types at that level, we still keep their sites on harmon.ie because it’s a fast and effortless interface.”
Since the implementation of harmon.ie, its proven ability to reduce digital sprawl and improve metadata usage has made it the killer app for the company. It has made compliance with the company’s email retention policy simple and employees have embraced its ease of use through the Outlook pane. Though the project was born from business needs within the Legal Department, harmon.ie’s features are now being embraced across the organization – making the right thing to do, the easy thing to do for thousands of employees.
Next time, when you hear innovation, collaboration and compliance can’t live under the same roof, consider this company’s experience. Consider how they took the lessons learned from making SharePoint the company collaboration and compliance hub without the expected sacrifice for those who use the system daily. Add to that the increased adoption of SharePoint and you will turn those skeptics into evangelists.