News Archive

Mail Problem

by msecadm4921

According to research company Gartner, 70pc of customer interactions are sitting inside email systems, locked up in individual mailboxes.

And, while some companies have mastered the management of email attachments by investment in Document Management systems what happens to the body of the email which holds a raft of key information from corporate expertise to customer insight? asks Rod Drury, Chief Executive Officer, Aftermail.

Email is a fantastic messaging technology but its lack of information management capabilities is adding untenable business cost. If organisations are to avoid the risks of spiralling email storage and management as well as poor productivity, escalating compliance risk and lost opportunities, they need a new approach to email management.
 
Email may have transformed the speed and efficiency of business communication but at what cost? How much invaluable business knowledge is locked away in personal mailboxes; or essential business contract negotiations lost through haphazard email management policies? What is the business impact of poor email management across the enterprise?
 
Over the past few years many organisations have invested significantly in new technology from CRM and ERP to DMS to integrate applications, share information and attain an enterprise wide view of the business, from supplier to customer. Yet such investments have completely ignored the fundamental area of business knowledge and customer interaction: email.
 
Traditional email storage solutions are fundamentally unsound offering no searchability, no simple way to manage attachments and no way to integrate email with line of business applications.  If organisations are to maximise their technology investments and minimise the escalating costs associated with email mismanagement, from compliance failure to a slump in productivity, it’s time to challenge the old model and bring email into the enterprise information store.
 
Killer Application

What is the point of investing in an expensive CRM system when vital data is hidden in a personal mailbox? How can an organisation monitor and manage contract negotiations if key elements are conducted via email, especially when one of the negotiators leaves the company?
 
Obviously, for compliance purposes, an increasing number of organisations have woken up to the need to store email. But the overhead associated with managing terabytes of email is untenable. For many IT managers, although only a tiny percentage of email changes each day; generally around 2pc – the inefficiency of email server technology means that all the email requires management.
 
And what happens when users hit their weekly storage limits? At 4pm on a Friday, with a vital email to send, the only answer is to start deleting to free up capacity; losing information that may affect compliance strategies, undermine corporate asset value or even compromise on going customer/supplier negotiations.
 
Just when did enterprise information management become a user issue?

 Information Management

Is it any wonder that organisations are becoming increasingly concerned about risk, corporate governance and the cost of discovery? Or that users are losing confidence in email servers and struggling to find the information they require to conduct day to day business?
 
Standard email servers are fantastic at messaging. But they are completely inadequate at storing information. Microsoft has been promising a relational database to provide information management for Exchange since 1998. But in 2005 that promise appears no closer to realisation.  Yet the need for such technology is becoming critical: organisations simply cannot afford to lose the valuable business information that is either regularly deleted or takes too long to find in an unsearchable format.
 
If organisations globally are to leverage the data held within email and finally close the loop on the enterprise wide view of corporate information, email needs to be stored in a fully retrievable, auditable and searchable manner. And, critically, this must be done without massive storage overhead or requiring user intervention.
 
A store-everything policy is the only answer to long term compliance and corporate knowledge management. Relying on manual profiling once again puts too much pressure on the end-user to make the right decision and, to be frank, takes too long. By automating and storing every email the onus is removed from the users to understand long term information value and organisations can demonstrate their commitment to compliance strategies.
 
And, once every email is stored within a relational database structure, organisations finally have rapid access to this key corporate asset. By integrating the email data store with core applications, from CRM and finance to HR and ERP, email related information can become an automatic component of the solution, providing the complete enterprise information view for the first time.

Relational Approach

By using a relational database email management solution alongside existing mail servers such as Exchange, organisations can not only unlock vital business information but actually transform the process of email management.  Leveraging the efficiency of the relational model overcomes the conflict between retaining all emails and escalating storage costs. By modelling emails in an information store that was designed for the purpose, the process becomes extremely efficient.
 
Firstly, attachment duplication is overcome by single instancing all documents; a process that reduces email storage volumes by half. Secondly, with the majority of data failing into the ‘write once, read many’ category, appropriate information management reduces the management overhead to only those emails that have changed each day; a fraction of the overall volume.
 
By significantly reducing the email volume organisations can then provide users with unlimited mailboxes and rely on technology, rather than business people, to solve the storage issue. Critically, this approach moves the business away from the crazy situation where end users have to make the call on whether or not to delete enterprise information, whilst also enforcing the compliance strategy.
 Once in place, a full text search can be undertaken across the entire email data store, achieving in minutes what has taken many organisations weeks, even months of manual investigation in the past. From compliance assessment or investigations for email misuse to tracking customer specific communication, fully searchable email information transforms the discovery process from expensive nightmare to standard business tool. Model Challenge
It seems extraordinary that despite massive investments in integrated technologies email is languishing unread; or out of existence across businesses globally. Indeed, the approach to storing email has not changed since its initial acceptance a decade ago. Yet email servers’ hierarchical storage mechanism makes enterprise searching impossible – attachments are locked under message objects, creating massive storage problems and, since the proprietary data store is available only to the messaging engine, line of business applications cannot get access to the information.
 
And the cost to business is huge; from the time wasted by users trying to find information to lost sales opportunities; an inability to demonstrate compliance; and the massive overhead associated with spiralling storage costs and email management.
 
Email has moved from business saviour to a significant business problem in a matter of years as users, compliance officers and IT managers alike struggle to control the escalation in email volumes – and email value.  The traditional approach to email management is patently not working; time to challenge the old model and bring email into the enterprise information store.

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