Email is in the doghouse at work

Recent surveys suggest that despite a growing number of emails being sent, users increasingly prefer other types of communication. One reason for this shift may be that the growth of email is causing information overload.

Recent surveys suggest that despite a growing number of emails being sent, users increasingly prefer other types of communication. Analysts say one reason for this shift may be that the growth of email is causing information overload, and firms should therefore introduce new policies on email use or risk lower productivity.

LONDON (ZDNet UK)--Last month, a survey of 2,000 Internet users carried out by the Consumers' Association found that the popularity of email was waning. Only five percent of respondents said email was their preferred form of communication, compared with 14 percent in the same survey last year.

Also last month, a study by market research company Vanson Bourne found that UK employees spend as much as 25 percent of their working lives managing email. Commissioned by information management firm KVS, the survey discovered that workers spend up to two hours sending between 30 and 70 emails each day.

One IT services manager contacted by IT Week said that the proliferation of email could increase administration costs and damage competitiveness.

He said another problem is that projects and contracts are frequently being conducted via multiple emails over a long period. He pointed out that this can be inefficient, and the only documentation for products and contracts is often the emails exchanged by the parties involved. He recommended that companies should connect series of emails together as linked lists, so that agreements reached, and the emails sent, can be stored in chronological order.

He also advised that organizations should have formal written contracts in order to prevent arguments between different parties, where one is unable to show a full history of email correspondence.

Other users were concerned that the absence of formality in business emails means that communications often lack clarity, and so reduce levels of efficiency. Colin Williams, business development manager at IT equipment supplier Action.com, suggested that poorly written emails lead to "a degree of disdain for the writer".

Calendaring synchronization tools firm On Board Info has argued that companies are also in danger of alienating their customers through excessive email marketing. It suggests that alternative approaches are required, such as permission-based marketing in which firms are able to place adverts on users' PCs or PDA calendars.

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