Oct 19, 2009

Like it or not, email is the nerve system of modern business

Compared to the phone, it is asynchronous and provides a written record to the sender and recipient for follow-up action or later reference. In this respect, it is much more useful than instant messaging or social networks.

It can be frivolous or deadly serious – it’s possible to be fired via an email, but also due to an email. Many vital decisions are made by email exchange, and the implication of our usage findings is that these may be made on the move, on tiny screens, and when otherwise off-duty.

Whether within their own office or between organizations separated by thousands of miles and many time zones, the sender will assume that all sent emails are received, and that they are read.

They will frequently expect a response within hours, let alone days. All this despite the ease of misaddressing, the hit-or-miss nature of mobile synchronization, the spam filters, the reply-to-all clutter, and the mass deletions required to stand any chance of keeping one’s inbox usable.

For many information workers, the email client is their primary business application. They spend many hours of the office day reading, responding and collaborating via emails.

The email history created by these responses and interactions is so poorly maintained, and the ability of knowledge workers to search for important content within current and past emails – their own and those of their colleagues – is so poor.

In a large organization, several millions of emails are handled each day. Most are of no lasting consequence, but each day there will be a significant number of important emails involving the organization in obligations, agreements, contracts, regulations and discussions, all of which might be of legal significance.

In this report of AIIM we discuss how these important records are being dealt with, what policies are in place, how aware staff are of the issues, and which technologies are in use.

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