Using SharePoint and HP TRIM to manage email

Email constitutes an important part of the content in an organization. Not surprisingly, we get asked quite frequently about how best to manage email based content.

HP TRIM already includes Outlook integration that allows declaration of emails as records. This works well if in an organization people are familiar with HP TRIM and how content should be managed with it. But what happens in a much more SharePoint centric organization?

We are big believers in going to great lengths to “disguise” away the complexities of records management from end users (and why we extoll the virtues of the HP TRIM Integration for SharePoint). The last thing I expect an organization to do is introduce a different technology to a user base just so that they can manage email.

So what is the answer?

Microsoft has provided us with an excellent integration between SharePoint and the Office Suite of products, except for Outlook. There is really no elegant way to get email from Outlook into SharePoint. Fortunately for us, there are third-party vendors that provide much more capable Outlook to SharePoint integrations. Using one of these products allows users to save email from inside of Outlook straight to SharePoint, capturing important content and metadata in the process.

Using a combination of one of these email products together with the HP TRIM Integration to SharePoint, means that this content can then be seamlessly managed by HP TRIM. In essence, you are using SharePoint as the conduit to manage email information as a record, in the same way as other list items and documents.

I want to talk in particular about one of the products on the market that we have had some great success with: OnePlaceMail from Scinaptic

Not only do we have customers using this product to solve their email management challenge, but our team uses it internally in our own environment.

Although we have an “official” system for tracking formal support requests from the field, before a case is raised, the support desk often email us directly to see if it is something we can answer quickly without the need to formally escalate. This process tends to result in:

• Confusing email threads
• Difficulties pulling in other team member to assist (e.g. if the original person contacted is away sick)
• Requests being sent through with insufficient supporting information, such as the version of the product
• Silos information in a way that makes it difficult for us and the support team to refer to in future should a similar case arise.

To resolve these challenges, we have created an issues list in SharePoint that allows us to capture and track these requests. There is nothing tricky about this; it is just a custom list that we have created that includes a bunch of managed metadata and text. The following screen shot shows the entry form for a new item.

What typically triggers one of these cases though is support receiving an email from a customer or partner. We therefore use this as the trigger for raising a case, and with the use of OnePlaceMail, support can do this right from inside of Outlook itself. The email message includes in the ribbon a “Copy to SharePoint” button.

The Outlook ribbon also includes a “Move to SharePoint” button

In this example, I will use the copy option. The user is presented with all of the properties required to create an entry in the issues list, right there in Outlook.

Features such as mandatory fields, people pickers and managed metadata are fully supported inside of the capture dialog:

The support desk member can enter everything they need to as they capture the email. And because mandatory properties are enforced, they can’t submit a request without providing the base information we need. It’s also possible to map email metadata directly to fields in SharePoint, including copying the content into a custom column if required.

An email once copied to SharePoint is then indicated on the message itself, using an Outlook email category.

Looking at the issue that was raised in SharePoint, you can see that the email was added as an attachment to the item (if we were using a document library, the email would be the document for that item).

OnePlaceMail automatically adds the ability to access recently used SharePoint lists so they can be accessed from Outlook as well. This makes it easy for the support team to locate the items

In the background, on our SharePoint site, we have an LMP configured to automatically manage items in the list. The result is that what started off as an unmanaged email, ends up in a support case visible and editable via SharePoint and managed as a record by HP TRIM. Clearly, we could also choose to use the issue status as a LMP trigger to manage or finalize content, and we may do this in the future.

The things we like about OnePlaceMail include:

• Mandatory fields, managed metadata and people picker controls are all fully supported
• They have a fantastic free “express” version of the product available that is very capable and essentially allows you unlimited time to assess the suitability of the product for your needs
• We have found the support provided by the guys at Scinaptic to be excellent. One of our partners also commented on this too.
• They already support SharePoint and Office 2013
• Users don’t have to leave Outlook to manage email, or look at existing SharePoint content
• The ability to ‘push’ configuration so we can standardise settings for our support staff

You may be thinking that the site mail boxes introduced in SharePoint 2013 will provide you the functionality that OnePlaceMail does, but think again. For one thing, you cannot enter metadata associated with the email when moving it to SharePoint, which makes the site mailbox suitable only for the most rudimentary of situations. Ask yourself if you are prepared to capture records based on email with no metadata entry occurring and you will probably find yourself turning to a third-party email capture product.

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Note, we recognise that there are other solutions out there in the marketplace, but I just wanted to share ours and our partner’s positive experience specifically with OnePlaceMail.