I Struggle to Manage Email, What Can I do?

Despite predictions of its death, email continues to grow – roughly 306.4 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2020, the figure is expected to increase to over 361.6 billion daily mails in 2024. Its no wonder that many people struggle to manage email.

The tool of choice

Email is still the business communications tool of choice because:

  1. Email is based on open standards. Other messaging services are  based on proprietary standards which means they are supported only in the way the owners want them to be used. Email works with any device because its method of communication is public.
  2. Email servers are used as file servers. Many users store their files (as attachments) on email servers rather than in dedicated file servers housed in their offices or in the Cloud (eg DropBox). because email metadata (to, from, cc) and the email message itself can be used to find the files when needed.
  3. Email standards have been around a long time and are generally reliable. 

Managing email volume

However, to manage email volumes, both for individual users and for IT teams can be difficult.  Many people in an organisation are bcc’d or cc’d, often with large attachments, which all takes up storage space.  Not everyone uses folders to keep all emails from a particular recipient, and it can take a while to retrieve emails among the hundreds or even thousands that come through each week.  Of course, users should regularly purge their unwanted emails, but in practice many do not –  firstly, it takes time and secondly, they fear deleting something they may want to retrieve later. 

Preserving confidentiality

One of the downsides of digital messaging – including email – is that it fosters privacy in situations where privacy is detrimental to a business. Most messages exchanged with third-parties are not confidential. Yet because messages are addressed to specific employees, other employees who need to be aware of the interaction are kept in the dark. 

Shared inbox v aliases

One way around this are so called shared inboxes. However, this is a term that is often misused. A true shared inbox is simply an email account which several employees have access to – such as “info@company.com”.  This can be useful but shared owners then become anonymous – which may not be the desired effect. A different mechanism is aliases. Several staff can share an alias but when an email arrives for the alias, it goes into each individual’s private email account. When one of the alias holders responds, the others aliases will not get access to the response unless the alias is specified as a recipient. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages.

The gold standard

A better approach is to allow email to be shared based purely upon the contact information. Effectively, a company-wide address book is used whereby each contact may be designated as shared or private. If the contact is not private (or personal)  then the message automatically gets shared. Rather than interfere with a user’s email, it’s better to have a separate company-wide repository for email to be shared. This allows users to purge their inboxes without worrying they might delete some important message. This is the approach adopted in Threads.

Sharing email tends to reduce the amount of email being exchanged, because employees no longer need to cc in everyone they think might ever need to see the email. In fact, unnecessary cc’ing poses a significant security risk. Statistically a large percentage of email users have viruses which cull every email address they can find to create targets for spam and phishing. Better to use only bcc.

To keep the amount of email manageable, messages should be divided into those that  involve known contacts, and those that do not. In Threads, this is done automatically for a whole group of users for both emails and phone calls, but can also be achieved on individual email accounts using rules.

Email is not going away because there is still nothing yet to replace it but to manage email by sharing and separating email, it becomes much easier.