Retention Tension - A Real-Life Story

Retention Tension - A Real-Life Story

(names were altered to protect identities)

Scanning the news while finishing off her morning coffee, Melanie felt her stomach turn as she scrolled to the next story. Another data leak dominates the headlines—but this time it’s at another company in the same industry.

Rather than take joy in the damaged reputation of a competitor, Melanie’s overwhelmed with dread. Early estimates peg the GDPR-related fines for this breach could exceed €10 million as Data Protection Authorities around the EU assess the magnitude of the incident.

With anxious stakeholders sending her frantic emails and Microsoft Teams messages demanding to know how their business can avoid a similar fate, Melanie forms an action plan. She knows email is a security vulnerability the company hasn’t properly addressed—primarily because business units don’t want to part with their old emails because they might prove helpful in the future.

Melanie’s previous policies and pronouncements were often ignored and projects investing in compliance got postponed for other priorities. But she’s no longer worried about ruffling feathers, it’s time for strong action to protect the company, regardless of the downstream impact.

From: Melanie
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2024 8:15 AM
Subject: Data breach - proactive steps required immediately!
Dear colleagues,

In light of today’s data breach at our competitor, now is the time to take proactive steps to ensure we don’t end up in the same situation. I have been warning many of you for some time about the dangers that keeping old emails around present. But now, as our Head of Compliance, I must insist that our email retention and destruction protocols are strictly adhered to. Between the potential fines and reputational damage, a data leak would be a massive blow to our firm. I will be engaging with IT to begin this work immediately.

Best regards,

After a morning of customer meetings, Josh has a few moments to catch up on his email. He scans his inbox and sees an email from Melanie with a high-priority exclamation point near the top. As he reads it over, he feels a growing sense of dread.

Josh’s customer success team heavily relies on their saved emails. They’re constantly referring back to previous exchanges to recall the nuances of each client engagement and to bring the rest of the team up to speed quickly. He himself searches his inbox at least a few times a week to dig up an email thread from months or years ago to retrieve important details or find contact information.

When he steps back to imagine the impact on his team’s performance, he’s overwhelmed with the full ramifications. This won’t be a minor inconvenience, he thinks to himself, this will create chaos!

He quickly writes a response to Melanie’s edict, replying all to her email and demanding that Melanie’s directive be put on hold—at least for his team—because it will be far too disruptive.

From: Josh
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2024 11:42 AM
Subject: RE: Data breach - proactive steps required immediately!
We can’t just delete all our old emails. We use them all the time to manage our business. We need easy access at our fingertips, so locking them away in some archive won’t work for us, either. Do we really want to sacrifice productivity for this? This is no way to run things.


Kevin gets to his desk after lunch and sees Josh’s response to Melanie’s earlier email. He lets out a huge sigh and puts his head in his hands. Melanie has already scheduled a kick-off meeting for this afternoon to scope out what must happen to meet Melanie’s compliance goals. If the lines of business aren’t on board with this change, it will be complete bedlam when it rolls out.

He sees both sides of the coin. On the one hand, Melanie is absolutely correct that retaining emails en masse increases risks for the organization. Any message could easily fall into the wrong hands with a careless forward or typo in the “To” field.

But Kevin also still feels the scars of the last “mandatory” change driven by IT. Getting chewed out by executives while the help desk was overwhelmed with internal support inquiries caused major burnout for this team. He knows that if business leaders aren’t on board with whatever changes they make, it will be a repeat of that awful situation.

Stretching his legs while contemplating his next move, Kevin remembers an Information Management solution he’d heard about at a networking event a few weeks ago. That company had a collaboration challenge on Microsoft Teams and needed to regularly share key emails with team members.

Instead of cc’ing everyone or creating a shared inbox, they opted to use an Outlook add-in that makes it easy for end users to drag and drop emails right from their inbox to any location on Teams or SharePoint. It also has the option to add metadata during that workflow, letting end users quickly manage and share emails on Microsoft 365 without ever having to leave Outlook.

Kevin rushed back to his desk with a smile beginning to replace his worried expression. This was his chance to be a hero for a change, coming up with a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

With he could help the organization achieve Melanie’s compliance goals, letting end users easily migrate retained emails to the appropriate directories on SharePoint and Teams. Business users could then just as easily find them again, searching across Microsoft 365 and getting detailed results all from within Outlook.

After deploying across the organization and socializing the new best practices and expectations, Josh could rest easy. He knows his team won’t be hindered from accessing the information they need. Meanwhile, Melanie could sleep well knowing that email messages and attachments with PII were now safely stored in SharePoint and Teams rather than dispersed across hundreds of individual Outlook inboxes. And as for Kevin, this rollout’s gone so well that he’s actually up for that promotion.

How does the retention tension play out in real life?

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