Managing Text Messages as Business Records

Text messaging has become a powerful business tool, but as the often-quoted Spider-Man phrase goes, with great power comes great responsibility.  And that responsibility falls on the enterprise to manage business related text messages as they would any other type of official business record.

In the not too distant past, capturing email correspondence as a matter of record was a huge challenge for many organizations (and probably remains one for some).  But with sophisticated email management options integrated into company document and record management systems, many organizations have implemented effective guidelines and procedures for capturing relevant email as records.

But how many companies have created organization-wide policies around business related text messaging?

The real-time nature of text messaging has pushed its former use as a fun way to interact with family and friends, to a mature way to collaborate with clients.  Here are some interesting stats related to text messaging:

  • Text messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate (Mobile Marketing Watch)
  • Text messaging has a 45% response rate, while email has only a 6% response rate (Velocify)
  • 90% of all text messages are read in under 3 minutes (Connect Mogul), while the average person takes 90 minutes to respond to email (CTIA).
  • Over 80% of American adults text, making it the most common cell phone activity (Pew Internet). On average, Millennials exchange over 67 text messages per day (Business Insider).

Since text messages are typically considered to be public record, enterprises are responsible for providing these messages in the event of litigation.  Therefore, an organization’s policy should:

  • Explain if or when text messaging can be used for work purposes
  • Define the types of text messages that must be captured as records
  • Describe how to capture a text message into the corporate document or record management system

For firms to protect themselves, it is important to look at the intersection of information governance policies along with mobile device management options.  The task is overwhelming given the number of devices, operating systems and manufactures of mobile devices.  But vendors of mobile device management (MDM) solutions are starting to consider the underlying storage systems, retention schemes, deleted item recovery options and preservation options as part of their MDM strategy to capture text messages in a controlled way, so a good first step is to understand what MDM options are available for the types of devices a company will support.