Email is a dominant business communication tool, being the major method of communication between colleagues, customers, and suppliers each day.
For individuals, the scale of these business communications can be overwhelming. The resulting stress for employees and data management problems for the business can put at risk critical business relationships with customers and suppliers.
What many businesses do not realise is that email should only be used as a short-term communication system. Instead, many end up using it as a long-term storage solution to manage information, which is not its intended use. Using email systems in this way results in time wasted trying to access emails, reduced visibility to these communications company-wide, an increased risk of data loss, and GDPR breaches.
This blog explores the problems that many businesses face when it comes to managing and storing emails and suggests one simple solution to all these problems.
Staff leave information in their email inbox
One thing that many employees do when it comes to email management is … nothing. When an email arrives in their inbox, they deal with it, and then that’s it, they leave it in their main (and only) inbox folder.
And this is fine if you do not receive many emails or do not wish to share it with the wider business. It tends to be a system that works fine for micro, one-man-band style companies.
However, when companies start to grow and take on more staff, this becomes rather inefficient long term as it can take a long time to find specific emails. Harvard Business Review found in 2019 that full inboxes waste 27 minutes per day. This works out at 117 hours per year wasted because emails are not stored away.
As well as this, it can put your business at higher risk of data loss which becomes extremely costly and time-consuming to recover from. According to findings from The Ponemon Institute, UK firms will pay an average of £71 per record for every instance of data loss they experience. For a small business that receives the average number of emails a day (estimated by The Radicati Group to be 126 emails received each day by the end of 2019), this would be enough for a business to fail.
The move to email folders
To fight the inefficiency of struggling to find emails that have just been left in your inbox, some employees may start to use email folders to help organise their emails and make them slightly easier to find.
However, as the number of folders increase, so does the time it takes to file and retrieve emails. Research has found that users have on average 37 inbox folders. This ends up becoming a long list to search through when you have a long list of customer names, employee names, or supplier names.
Additionally, Harvard Business Review found that just archiving emails into many folders using a mouse wastes 11 minutes per day, while using folders to organise and find emails wastes 14 minutes per day. This wastes over 60 hours a year.
Some employees may begin to use automated rules and filters which is 50% faster than using a mouse to store emails. But these can be tricky and time-consuming to configure for each folder and each type of email you receive. And, where emails have been automatically filed away into subfolders that have been collapsed, staff may not be aware they received an email at all.
Important information is now inaccessible to other employees
As your business continues to grow, so does the number of staff making key business decisions over email, as well as the number of emails sent. When this information is only stored within email systems, this creates information silos where it is almost impossible for other members of staff to see important decisions you have made and vice versa.
Information silos can cost your business money, especially if staff are unaware of negotiated purchasing contracts or discussions by other staff members with potential customers. Likewise, it can also waste time if employees are having to wait for emails to be forwarded over to them for them to be able to do their jobs.
Some companies overcome this by Cc’ing colleagues into email threads so they have this visibility. However, this adds to the problem of excess email and causes further email storage issues. This can also be annoying to staff who may not be involved in the discussion but need to be included in each email for visibility reasons.
This problem then manifests itself as a GDPR compliance issue where the company cannot control who holds personal identifiable information (PII) or where it is stored due to the amount of forwarding and Cc’ing that is happening company-wide.
If a Subject Access Request (SAR) comes in, it would be almost impossible to comply with due to the amount of information that would be spread across multiple inboxes. The problem gets even worse if an individual requests to have any data held on them removed.
It also makes it difficult for your business to manage retention and data disposal policies as your company will not know what is being stored where. The email data will just continue building up, adding more costs to your business.
Realisation and change
Those companies that come to realise that using an email system as a long-term storage system is extremely ineffective then look to ways to improve. One solution to all these problems is storing important business emails in an external system like a Document Management system.
A Document Management system ensures that emails can be quickly and easily found by those that need them, protects the data from data loss, and prevents emails from being stored twice. It also helps with GDPR compliance because you can see exactly who can access each email, who has accessed them and enables you to do SAR’s as well as implement a retention and disposal policy.
Those that do have a Document Management system need a simple way of getting emails into their system. Invu Document Management has an Email Drag and Drop feature that works in a similar way to your email folders (see the gif below), but, instead of having the emails stored in your email system, they are stored in your Document Management system. This list is also searchable, making storing your emails easy.
In addition to this, the latest update to the Email Director module comes with an Auto-Saved Conversations function that automatically stores all emails in an email chain in one place.
This ensures staff do not have to repeat the drag and drop process and guarantees all communications are stored in your Document Management system.
This solution is saving our customers time, money, and improving customer service while also making employees happier and less stressed.