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Email Tips for 2000

by Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA 

Irish poet John O’Donohue once said that email is like coming home at night after a long day and finding 70 people in your kitchen.  We have all experienced the increased influx of email, and the interruptions it can create on a busy day, if not managed properly.  This brief will discuss a variety of issues we have experienced with email and suggestions on dealing with them. 

Time Wasters: Many people waste an incredible amount of time monitoring and re-visiting their email without resolving issues.  One of the best habits to get into is deleting non-essential email immediately after reading it the first time.  Another good habit is either placing the folder into an active work folder or to forward it to the person that can address the issue.  If forwarding to a group of people consistently, take the time to create a distribution list so it can be sent quickly, and avoid the “everyone” list except when warranted.  Finally, make sure your email has an automatic spell checker and signature line, as they will make your email correspondence more professional and save you typing time.

Managing, Filtering, and Storage: We all have to get a handle on the volume of email that comes in every day. By setting your email checker to update only on certain intervals, (i.e. 20 minute delay) you can be assured that there will be some uninterrupted time.  Creating folders for specific projects and having mail filtered directly to them will also save time.  We receive regular Berst Alerts from ZDNet, which are automatically filtered utilizing Outlook rules into its own folder.  We can then review the folder when time is available. We also use rules to filter emails from specific clients (into that clients own folder) or to “auto-reply” to emails when we are on vacation and not likely to respond.  Storage of old email is a huge problem (especially in larger firms) as the volume can slow down everyone’s email.  Most firms put limitations on each individual’s file size, (usually 50-100Mb), that are monitored by network personnel.  When the limit is breached, the staff person is usually given a set time to clean it up or to justify the need.  The data can then be archived or deleted according to firm policy.

Employee Abuse:  Firm Email is a business asset and should be viewed as such.  We all receive a certain amount of personal email (as we do phone calls), but some personnel spend an inordinate amount of time reading and forwarding non-business emails.  These emails can eat into other people’s productivity as well, and can also get the firm in trouble if they are of an offensive nature to the receiver.  The first step to reduce this problem is to implement a computer usage policy and to enforce it. Management must inform and educate staff on the policy and should encourage employees to use a personal email account for non-business items.  By using a personal email account, it will move these emails off of the company server (reducing volume) and most of the reading/forwarding offsite, during the employee’s personal time.  SPAM (or unsolicited junkmail) is a serious problem in this country (at any one time, AOL estimates that 30% of emails are SPAM) as it eats up resources and bandwidth.  Many firm personnel create SPAM without even knowing it by forwarding emails to “everyone you know” about a virus hoax or other urban myth.  The best way to deal with SPAM is to delete it or have it automatically filtered out of your email account (Microsoft Outlook has a "junk email" option under the Actions tab to do this).

Limited Bandwidth: Most firms have purchased a dedicated ISDN, xDSL, Cable or T-1 line to the Internet, which is shared by all personnel.  As Internet usage increases, the bandwidth is filled up and access times get slower (which can be counter-productive).  Before spending more money on increased bandwidth, it is important to evaluate how the current bandwidth is being utilized.  As mentioned above, SPAM can account for a portion of this, but there are other applications that have a live connection to the Internet.  Internet radio, stock tickers, and information services such as PointCast are often set up to broadcast and update in real time.  While one person utilizing one of these services may not use up much bandwidth, an entire firm of users does, which slows down access for everyone.  Also, personnel that actively monitor stock quotes/trades throughout the day cannot be thinking about client information when one of their investments is plummeting during a phone call.

Security of Data: Very few firms would leave a client’s financial information lying around the lobby and most have a policy of keeping client data secure and confidential.  This policy should be extended to confidential data sent via email.  As a minimum, passwords from within the applications (Word, Excel, PKZip) should be used or a public key encryption technology such as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy).  Once personnel have been trained on encrypting data, your firm can act as an example for your clients.

 ©2000 InfoTech Partners North America, Inc.
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