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Your most important distribution lists may be broken.  (And you probably can’t tell.)

While chat and instant messaging continue to rise, email is still the work horse of official communications – yet some of the most important official emails might not work right.

And it is likely that no one really knows. 

This is pretty rough — especially when you are the one responsible for hitting "send" on the Open Enrollment email that will go to a few thousand people — and they better be the right few thousand people!


Well, like the story of the five whys, there are lots of reasons. Let’s start with visibility.

Why is it hard – or nearly impossible – to know who gets certain emails?

Because most big emails lists just contain other email lists. The All_US list contains the All_US_Sales list, which contains the All_US_Sales_Operations, All_US_Sales_Reps, All_US_Field_Marketing, lists and so on. All_US also contains All_US_Finance, which contains more lists, and so on.

In some companies, All_US contains All_HQ, All_Trenton_Office, All_NJ_Remote_Workers. And so on. 

And so on.

 So there’s no way to really know who is actually getting the Open Enrollment email – unless you manually recurse all of these lists.

And worse, the people who send these emails can’t even do that.

Why? Because the list administration tools – Active Directory or Exchange or Google Admin or Google Groups – weren’t built for the business users who are in charge of these communications. And most IT shops wisely lock these tools down.

switchboard cropped 3
At least they knew who they were connecting you to...

Why? Because these tools have lots of really unsafe knobs and switches.

For example, there are some an innocuous looking settings in Google Groups that will let everyone read each others’ emails to a group inbox. This can be disastrous for the Ask_HR or Stock_Admin email boxes. (Or, in some cases, these messages appear on the open internet.)

And in Exchange, a business user who makes a mistake editing a Mail-Enabled Security Group could accidentally lock people out of their laptops.

So why are these email tools so over-powered? Simply because both were originally built for other purposes. Active Directory is, at its heart, a powerful security tool. Google Groups was originally built for newsgroup administration – if you’re as, um, experienced as I am, you’ll remember Deja News.

So why haven’t better tools emerged?

Five years ago, the majority of email systems were on-premise. And HR systems, which hold a lot of the information needed to drive good email lists, were too. Even when both were in the cloud, integration was difficult and bespoke.

But now, it is possible to have a great end-user tool for distribution list management. More and more enterprise email is in the cloud. Cloud provisioning systems, like Okta, make it easy to integrate multiple systems in minutes, not weeks.

That’s what we’re building with OrgWiki – the tools that enterprise distributions lists should have had all along. We’ll show the list owner everyone who is on All_US, no matter how many lists it contains.

We’ll even make it easy for mere mortals to manage nested lists safely. So easy that list owners don’t need to contact IT to manage their lists.

So easy, that our customers remove “distribution list” as a type of IT ticket from their helpdesk.

And no one needs an explanation of why that’s a good thing.

Topics: Office 365, Google Groups, Powershell, Distribution list security, distribution lists, Active Directory

OrgWiki provides an up to date company directory, mobile app and distribution list management.

  • Help employees find who they need with a great company directory
  • Automate common distribution lists tasks
  • CallerID for everyone in your company.
  • Names Game for learning people's faces

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