Pesky End Users and Office 365 Labels – to Use or Not to Use, Maybe

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Office 365 Labels

Pesky End Users and Office 365 Labels – to Use or Not to Use, Maybe

One of my pet peeves has always been the tagging of documents by humans, or, as I like to call them, pesky end users. Those of you who read my blogs know that I am just teasing, and I often stick up for those poor souls who carry the burden of assigning accurate metadata to content. Today, they are not so lucky.

The mistagging of documents can wreak havoc on records management, search, migration, research, text mining, and a whole host of applications. At the Microsoft Ignite conference this year there were two sessions on labels. According to Microsoft, “Labels in Office 365 can help you take the right actions on the right content. With labels, you can classify data across your organization for governance, and enforce retention rules based on that classification.” As an aside, labels are now part of Microsoft Information Protection (MIP), so if you hear that term bandied about, you can know it means labels.

Where I think labels provide significant value is from an end user perspective, or rather a management perspective. Labels can be automatically applied or applied by the end user. I would suggest thinking long and hard about how you are going to roll out labels, as there are some gotchas that can really cause a mess if you transfer the responsibility to end users.

In one of the Ignite presentations, the speaker said that Microsoft must comply with over 200 regulatory bodies. That would require knowledge transfer to end users whose responsibility is to tag content with the right label. We know training won’t happen, because it never does, and end users will remain clueless. Auto-applied labels removes the onus on the end user to consistently tag content correctly, and users do not need to know or care about information governance policies.

If you are implementing records management, watch out, you can use a label to classify content as a record. When this happens, the label can’t be changed or removed, and the content can’t be edited or deleted. Who was responsible for that function at Microsoft? Only one label at a time can be applied to content, such as an email or a document. A manually assigned label will overwrite an automatically applied one, unless, of course, it’s a record. So your users who are a pain in the you know what – yes, we all have them – will feel free to overwrite your auto-labels.

Easy to fix? Well, not exactly. An auto-applied label cannot replace a manually applied label. As your organization grows and changes, your labels won’t. If there are multiple rules that assign an auto-apply label and content meets the conditions of multiple rules, the label for the oldest rule is assigned.

Whew, I’m done. I’m sure there are more rules I haven’t discovered yet. Although based on this brief assessment I would suggest you take labels very seriously and spend some time planning them. On the plus side, do away with end user tagging wherever you can. Eliminate headaches from the get-go.