Could a Capstone-like Approach Provide a Blueprint for Email Management in the Enterprise?

In 2013, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) rolled out Capstone, a new approach to managing email records within federal agencies. With Capstone, government email is categorized for retention or disposition based on the title and/or position of the sender, rather than by the contents of the message. This system is predicated on the likelihood that an individual will have business records based on their role in an agency, and it seeks to eliminate the burden on individual users having to determine the retention requirements of each email they create. So could an approach like Capstone be beneficial for commercial enterprises?

Capstone for Highly Regulated Organizations

Capstone could provide additional value for organizations in highly regulated industries, such as financial services or pharmaceutical. These organizations typically have more structure around their email systems than companies in less regulated markets. Additionally, they are more likely to know which roles are central to different types of key information – a critical component to successful Capstone implementation.

The Capstone approach could help simplify email retention efforts; it would remove the burden from individual employees, giving them more time to focus on their core functions. This is one of – if not the – biggest benefits of this type of approach.

Set the Right Foundation for Capstone

First, the organization needs to define Capstone officials – those employees whose accounts warrant permanent retention. NARA describes Capstone officials as:

“…senior (e.g., those high on the organization chart) officials generally responsible for agency and program policy- and mission-related actions. Capstone officials will vary agency by agency depending on how the roles at the agency are carried out and how the agency is organized. Some agencies will have more Capstone officials than others.”

For a commercial enterprise, this could include the C-suite and business unit leaders, as well as senior managers who are responsible for strategic, IP-related, or customer activities (for example, in finance and human resources departments). In financial services, this could be defined by compliance requirements for certain types of broker/dealers and traders.

An organization may also look to leverage the appropriate technology to build on, enhance, and further automate the process. Auto-classification is one approach that should be considered, especially with the technological advancements in recent years. One form of auto-classification, “predictive coding” or “technology assisted review” as it’s often referred to in eDiscovery, has been gaining acceptance since the first case Monique Da Silva Moore, et al. v. Publicis Groupe & MSL Group in 2012. Technologies like this that employ machine learning or artificial intelligence are able to facilitate a “smarter way” of organizing and prioritizing the information captured.

Improve Preservation of Emails

The Capstone approach changes the manual and subjective ways individuals address preservation. Rather than having to explicitly save relevant documents to an archiving system, Capstone officials’ emails are archived by default. In the private sector, you may want to consider allowing for certain messages to be excluded (e.g., messages about birthday parties, family photos, etc.), but unless explicitly excluded, all messages are captured. This eliminates inconsistent preservation from employee to employee.

Combining a Capstone-like approach with auto-classification and automation can improve both the accuracy and the reliability of your organization’s discovery and information governance efforts. Over time, organizations may even want to extend this beyond email.

The emails must be saved along with related elements such as attachments and associated metadata. The Capstone guidance further recommends that agencies associate additional files with the email records, such as case or project files. This will help ensure that there is a more complete picture available when litigation or an investigation arises.

Organizations will still need to manage non-Capstone accounts in terms of preservation efforts supporting litigation or discovery.

Increase Discovery/Litigation Readiness

Routine use of commercially available auto-classification technologies as part of the Capstone approach leads to better results, because the system continuously learns and improves over time. Additionally, when emails are automatically classified as a routine part of doing business, when a matter arises, the eDiscovery or investigations team has a head start on organizations that have to start the process with an entire enterprise’s worth of unclassified documents.

Prioritize Collected Data for Discovery Analysis and Review

The definition of Capstone officials within the organization provides useful context at the beginning of any discovery-related matter. Understanding which roles send and receive emails about which corporate activities can provide a helpful starting point for your custodian list. Having their emails already archived and classified speeds early investigations and enables the discovery team to quickly iterate and refine the lists of custodians, keywords, etc.

The Fact is, not all Employees are Equal

The Capstone approach is based on the assumption that all the information that has business value within an organization will flow through a core set of employees – typically at the top. This means that you can assign a priority level to the people of interest in a case based on the likelihood of the “priority” individuals having the relevant information. Federal agencies have had the option of adopting a Capstone approach for a couple of years now. It may be time for commercial enterprises – especially those in highly regulated industries – to start thinking about the value it can deliver them as well. Nothing is perfect, but those looking to get a better hold on email management in 2015 and beyond may want to consider a Capstone-like approach.

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