The Hidden Cost of Email

Do you ever find yourself thinking, "I need to devote an entire day to sorting through and cleaning up my email inbox?" The time you spend sifting through that forest of emails is costing your organization time and money -- a factor many companies fail to recognize, according to Jesse Wilkins, principal consultant with Access Sciences Corporation. To combat the lack of insight, Wilkins has developed an Email Management ROI calculator for the AIIM organization.

Wilkins stresses the fact that email management should be taken seriously. He references statistics provided by The Radicati Group that suggest the average worker sifts through approximately 150 email messages every day -- devoting about 20 percent of their time in their inbox, filing, sorting, searching, categorizing, sending, and receiving. (And from a purely technical standpoint, all that email gobbles up about 20 megabytes per day in storage space, yet another cost that organizations fail to fully account for, Wilkins says.)

The effects of poorly managed email can weigh heavily upon an organization, Wilkins says. And yet email management is rarely viewed as a top-of-mind priority. Wilkins and AIIM say that they're hoping to change that with a tool to bring visibility to the importance of email management -- and what financial benefits an organization can gain from the effort. Wilkins says that although the ROI calculator is not the first of its kind, it's evidence of AIIM’s effort to provide organizations with actionable, hands-on tools. "AIIM has tried to...produce education materials that are more directly relevant to users and organizations," Wilkins says. "You go to a typical conference for any organization and you get lots of theory and [people saying], ‘Here’s how it works in all organizations -- if it doesn’t work in yours, too bad.’ "

Wilkins says it doesn't have to be that way. "The single biggest cost of email is the time users spend in their inboxes trying to locate mail they know that they have," Wilkins says. In the AIIM 2008 State of the Industry ECM Survey, respondents were asked, "How confident are you that emails related to documenting commitments and obligations made by you and your staff are recorded, complete, and retrievable?" Thirty-two percent said "slightly confident," while a staggering 30 percent said "not confident at all."

Despite the swept-under-the-rug attitude alluded to by Wilkins, 51 percent of respondents to AIIM's survey list email management as a technology interest to pursue within the next 12 to 18 months. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said they plan on spending slightly more in regard to email management.

Before cutting a check to a vendor selling an email management solution, though, decision-makers can discover just how much money they might be able to save by using AIIM’s ROI calculator, which factors in the following potential benefits of an email management solution:

  • Managed email allows users to find relevant messages in context and provide faster, more accurate responses.
  • As a result, users can make better decisions and gather a broader picture more efficiently.
  • More organized email reduces the risk of accidental disclosure of sensitive or confidential information.
  • It also reduces the risks of litigation and discovery.
  • Additionally, email management demonstrates compliance with those enterprise requirements.
The ROI calculator -- which costs $125, but is free to AIIM Professional Members -- presents information in an Excel worksheet, and consists of three tabs identifying the following:
  • the costs of the organization’s email today;
  • the costs of implementing an intended solution; and
  • the benefits to be obtained after operating a solution over a three-year period.
Wilkins says that an organization needs to consider certain assumptions along with the calculations, such as training, timing, and back-up storage costs -- but that, done properly, email management can restore the power of email as an operational tool instead of having it remain an ever-worsening drain on productivity.

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