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Handling emails for GDPR

What's the problem here then?

Let’s consider an important email sent to all ten members of an SMT. Chances are all ten will read and file that email, and as it’s important many will use their email client to file it. One recipient replies and copies in the others. Another recipient uses Reply All to that reply. One sent email very quickly becomes over thirty copies in Inbox and Sent folders, all on distributed email clients across the school. To prevent this it is necessary to have a sensible policy for the storage of such information and for the SMT to adhere to the policy.

Why is this important? It’s the good old GDPR again and all about data minimisation (and to a lesser extent the right to restrict data). Article 5 requires that data be (c) adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed, (d) accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date, and (e) kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed.

Lost and forgotten emails languishing on email clients and containing identifiable student information clearly does not comply with data minimalization (c), being unmanaged will be all but impossible to update (d) and being unknown not available for deletion (e).

In order for documents and data to be managed under GDPR they simply must be held centrally. Storing old emails on client PCs just won’t cut it.

So what do we do with all those emails?

Given that nearly all schools communicate internally and externally using email what’s to be done? The answer is to use available and often cheap technology to square the circle. Remember GDPR generally shouldn’t be scary and here is another area that needs a bit of thought but isn’t beyond most users. Here are a few suggestions that don’t require a PhD in Document management;

1 Put an end to email proliferation

Consider your distribution list when sending emails. We’ve all seen it. A distribution list of a dozen or more recipients on a single email resulting in multiple threads of conversation copied to everybody. Thankfully in this day and age most email users are a lot more savvy. If you are just one person on a distribution list maybe don’t use Reply To All, consider whether a reply is even necessary, and if you need to go off thread then create a new email.

2 Save relevant emails to another platform

Great as it is for one-to-one (or one-to-many communication at a push) email is just not designed for many-to-many group discussion type communications and it most definitely is not designed as an archive. There are many alternative solutions for one-to-many broadcasts, group discussions and archiving. Office 365 (free of charge to UK schools), Google Docs and SIMS (Linked Documents and Coms log) all provide a technological solution to the proliferation issue. An incoming email, say from a parent, can be attached to another platform such as the school’s MIS rather than distributed and multiplied by onward email. Likewise documents including email can be saved directly to a managed folder structure, shared or otherwise (just hit File and Save As in Outlook). Then delete the email.

3 Keep it clean

With new emails of value now being saved to secure, managed and backed-up locations your email client can get a spring clean. We’ll cover this in a future article.

How RecordLink can help

For SIMS users there is a brilliant asset in the form of the SIMS Document Management Server that is available with all SIMS installations and is frequently underutilised. This will keep your staff and student documents organised and GDPR compliant. It’s just a matter of saving the relevant documents to the SIMS DMS and Communication Log. It’s the secret weapon for SIMS users preparing for the GDPR.

We spoke with Stephen Davison, the Data, Performance & Information Systems Manager at Farringdon Community Academy. “The SIMS DMS is going to play a bigger role in the future due to GDPR SAR requirements and all the paper based files need to be somewhere so the SAR Request Routine in SIMS can pull all the necessary info. It’s all very well getting a list of table records but things should be more comprehensive than that. RecordLink export will handle that – providing everything is in the DMS. So we come full circle to getting information in one place, around the student, staff, contact or agent." 

RecordLink writer enables users to push emails and other MS Office files straight to the student(s) records where they are centrally managed by the SIMS file plan. Similarly we can help with hard copy capture and PDF handling. Just drop us a line to order a trial. Then, once files are loaded to SIMS they can be quickly extracted in bulk with RecordLink export to answer SARs and for archiving, sharing and onward distribution alongside CTF.

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