Automatic Metadata – a great way to improve user adoption of SharePoint
October 26, 2017
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Summary

MacroView Message and MacroView DMF enable much smarter filing of emails and attachments to a central store implemented in SharePoint (Online or on-premises).  In addition to filing by drag and drop, MacroView enables automatic filing of emails and attachments.

Introduction

Emails are too numerous and too important to be managed by having individual users leaving them in their InBoxes, Sent Items or saving them to other personal Outlook folders.  To be managed effectively all emails except those of a personal nature need to be filed in an appropriate central store. To be appropriate the central store must:

  • be able to cope with volume
  • ensure that emails are not accidentally deleted
  • facilitate the subsequent finding and retrieving of relevant emails
  • minimise the user effort required for filing of emails and attachments

This last point is critically important because an email store that copes with volume, ensures retention and facilitates search and retrieval is not much use if the emails are not filed in the first place.

Many organisations are interested in using SharePoint as their central email store.  This is because they already have SharePoint licenses and the document storing and searching capabilities of SharePoint look relevant to managing emails and their attachments.

However it is now widely understood that Out-Of-the-Box SharePoint does not score well on the ease of filing requirement – with the native user interface that ships with SharePoint you really cannot even drag and drop to save emails.

That’s where products like MacroView Message and MacroView DMF come in.  They extend the integration between Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint so that filing of emails and attachments is much easier. With MacroView Message and MacroView DMFyou can drag and drop emails and attachments to save them to SharePoint or drag and drop an email and have its body and attachments saved separately in SharePoint. Even better, emails and attachments can be filed to SharePoint automatically, without even needing to drag and drop.

MacroView enables intelligent email filing – user effort is minimised and so too is the risk of emails being filed incorrectly. In addition to significantly improving the efficiency of business processes, intelligent email filing done using MacroView can also assist an organisation in achieving compliance with regulations, including the new GDPR.  A key part of this is removing identifiable emails from personal InBoxes, which is a major disclosure risk in event of a lost notebook.  MacroView also assists by enabling the removal of identifiable details from emails that are sent as responses and forwards.

Filing Emails Automatically Using Rules

MacroView Message and MacroView DMFsupport email filing rules, which are similar in operation to Outlook’s own filing rules except that they arrange for the emails to be filed in SharePoint locations rather than in Outlook folders.  MacroView Email Filing rules apply to both incoming (i.e. received) emails and outgoing (i.e. sent emails).  They can contain multiple conditions based on various Outlook attributes (e.g. To contains ‘michael.hirst, Subject does not contain ‘Sample’, Body contains any of ‘Quotation, ‘Estimate’ or ‘Proposal’).

MacroView email filing rule with multiple conditions.

As it arrives in a user’s InBox an email that satisfies a MacroView email filing rule is automatically saved in the SharePoint location defined by that filing rule. The SharePoint location could be a document library, a document set or a SharePoint folder. If an outgoing email satisfies a MacroView email filing rule a copy of the sent email is automatically saved in the SharePoint location that is defined by that rule.

As it saves an incoming or outgoing email MacroView will automatically select an Email content type and automatically record all the non-personal attributes of the email (i.e. To, CC, BCC, From, Sent On, Received Time, Subject, etc) in corresponding metadata columns in the selected Email content type. This is exactly the same as when an email is saved ‘manually’ – e.g. by drag and drop. See Saving Outlook emails to SharePoint with no prompting for metadata  for details.  As with manual drag and drop saving the resulting emails can be automatically declared as records, to protect them from modification or deletion. See Effective Email Records Management.

As an outgoing email is filed automatically because it satisfies a filing rule MacroView will also prompt the user for any other metadata columns that it cannot record automatically.  This prompting for additional defined metadata columns does not occur when an incoming email is being filed automatically – this is because such prompting could well interrupt the user as he / she is performing other tasks. Instead the copy of the newly saved email in the InBox is flagged to indicate that one or more metadata columns need completing. We will see how this is achieved later in this article.

Filing Emails Automatically Using Filing Tags

If the optional Predictive Email Filing module is installed and active, MacroView Message and MacroView DMFcan automatically file an incoming or outgoing email to the SharePoint location defined by a special tag in the Subject of the email. In addition to fully automatic filing, MacroView can be configured so that the user has a chance to confirm that the location defined by the tag is correct for the particular email, and if not, choose an alternative filing location. In this ‘semi-automatic’ mode MacroView will suggest other locations that might be relevant, based on prior email filing activity.

Sample email with Subject containing an email filing tag

This tag-based filing is ideal for emails that relate to a specific Project, Customer or transaction – e.g. an Insurance company might use Policy Number or Claim ID in its filing tags; a law firm might use Matter Number; an Architecture / Construction / Engineering firm might use Project Code, etc. MacroView Message and MacroView DMF can be custom configured so that a user can generate a new email whose Subject already contains the correct email filing tag, simply by right-clicking on the appropriate area in the MacroView tree-view display of the structure of the SharePoint-based email and document store.

Alternatively MacroView can automatically generate and include sequential numbers in email filing tags. This is a popular approach for smaller organisations or even larger organisations wanting to minimise integration effort.

The format of the filing tags can be anything that is definable by a Regular Expression (i.e. very flexible indeed). The use of a code or number is far preferable to including the actual name of the Customer – especially given the need to avoid readily identifiable information in filed documents and emails (think GDPR compliance).

Automating Metadata for Emails and Attachments Using Filing Tags

In addition to automating the choice of filing location in SharePoint, the MacroView filing tag approach described above can be used to automate the recording of metadata.

This video on the MacroView YouTube channel shows how MacroView DMF can be custom configured to extract the value of a filing tag from the Subject or Body of an email and record that value in a particular metadata column called ApplicationID. As the video shows, this automatic extraction and recording of metadata is relevant when filing both emails and their attachments.

More Information

MacroView enables the design of SharePoint-based email stores that cope well with volume and which facilitate the automatic capture of metadata. See this MacroView blog post.

For more information about how MacroView solutions support intelligent filing or emails and attachments in SharePoint, see the MacroView web site or contact solutions@macroview365.com.