SER Blog  Information Governance

5 email risks your business should avoid

1971, New York: Ray Tomlinson sends the first ever email to his colleagues. What the inventor of electronic mail could not have foreseen: Today 293.6 billion emails go around the world – every day! Most are received at work: according to Bitkom on average 21 per day. Managers can easily receive more than 50. Customer queries, contractual agreements, supplier quotes, invoices, communications with other departments… All these messages are essential for a number of business processes. At the same time email traffic involves huge business risks. What are the five biggest ones? And even more importantly: How can they be avoided?

5 Geschäftsrisiken die durch E-Mails entstehen

Risk 1: Faltering processes

A supplier sent an email asking for a change in conditions and asking for a new quote. Unfortunately, you can’t remember the subject of the email to find it. Because the email was forwarded several times, even the sender of the message is no longer clear. Your team now starts searching through mailboxes and phoning around the company. This is time that could have been spent on value-adding tasks – and now you’ve missed the deadline to submit a better quote. Such delays affect other processes: Customers are never happy when they have to wait because you couldn’t find pertinent information. So how can you prevent this?

Instead of storing business-relevant emails in mailboxes, automated email archiving – as a part of an ECM system – can ensure that new emails are filed directly in the correct business context. This means that, for example, supplier quotes are in supplier files and customer queries in customer files. Rather logical, isn’t it? Intelligent classification mechanisms make it happen: they recognize email content and automatically assign it to the correct business partner and file, taking a huge amount of manual sorting and filing off your hands. In the files, you’ll find an information treasure trove: in addition to the relevant emails and attachments, you’ll discover all other information related to the business partner, e.g. previous correspondence, invoices or earlier agreements. This means that in one glance, all relevant information is neatly laid out for you. When your customer wants to know the latest numbers, you can provide them immediately and at any time. This gives your business the advantage of faster processing and enhanced customer service.

Risk 2: Outdated information

Business-relevant information isn’t just found in the email itself. Often an email is simply a vehicle for draft contracts, project plans, blueprints, quotes and other attached documents. With all those emails and attachments, who knows which version is the latest? Your team and project partners have to be able to access current documents at all times, otherwise they may end up working with outdated information. That leads to mistakes, e.g. in production, but also in administrative processes such as contract preparation. You can, however, prevent the costs of renewed production or contracts being invalidated due to errors. Instead of sending copies of documents, with transparent version management you file documents once in your ECM system and get an updated version with every change made. You immediately know the document’s status. Emails with copies attached and the resulting costly errors are a thing of the past.

Risk 3: Inefficient employees

Emails are actually supposed to communicate messages. Many employees, however, use them as a workflow substitute. Who hasn’t gotten an email addressed to a large group with a long to-do list with various tasks? How do you know if a task was completed? No one knows. And no one knows if two employees are inadvertently working on the same task. The default way to keep track is to maintain complex lists and follow up regularly – via email. With an ECM system, however, tasks and processes can be organized much more efficiently!

So that employees are not dependent on emails as a stopgap, many companies rely on an ECM platform which automates document-driven processes through corresponding workflows, making the whole process much more transparent and efficient. In the ECM platform Doxis from SER, for example, tasks can be assigned to a specific employee, who receives all the required documents directly with the workflow. You see immediately the due date and status. Doxis also sends deadline reminders and promptly informs a stand-in if, say, an employee is absent and a task needs to be completed. A further advantage: You also see employees’ workloads and how long tasks take, which allows you to quickly optimize processes and organize them more efficiently.

Risk 4: Penalties and image damage

The EU directive for the protection of trade secrets is being further extended and implemented by EU states, most recently by Germany. Imagine now that an employee accidentally forwards an email with attachments containing confidential contracts or patent information to someone outside of the company. The forwarding of this information is not only against the law, it can also end up being expensive if it impedes on pending patents or contract deals. You run similar risks with customer data: You are required by the EU GDPR to protect personal data. What happens when you unintentionally forward confidential customer data to Mr. Adam instead of Mr. Adams? Not only is that embarrassing, it can also have a direct impact on your business. If these cases become public knowledge, you have to reckon with significant image loss. Not to mention the penalties for breaching the law. What can you do against it?

If you want to protect your data, the first thing you should do is find a certified enterprise content management system. For example, Doxis fulfills specifications of audit-compliant archiving and the EU GDPR. Documents, data and emails archived here are protected from unauthorized access. It also documents precisely whoever reads, processes or deletes them. If you archive emails and protect them in Doxis, you can remove the messages from the server – unintended forwarding is no longer possible. With Doxis you can protect, save, delete and release personal data in compliance with the EU GDPR. That way you fulfill the requirements such as the right to erasure (Art. 17 EU GDPR), the right to data portability (Art. 20 EU GDPR) and the secure processing of personal data (Art. 32 EU GDPR).

Risk 5: Tax disadvantage

Emails with business-related content are regarded as commercial correspondence – and as such fall under legal retention requirements. If you first have to search for emails or have even deleted them, the next tax audit could be costly: from delay penalties to rejecting the bookkeeping with a subsequent assessment and withdrawal of tax benefits. This is hassle and expense that you can avoid.

Here, too, email archiving helps: Doxis archives tax-relevant emails and attachments in an audit-compliant way right from the start. The ECM system automatically adheres to the legal retention period. No email can be deleted too early or changed. Automate your email archiving, and you’ll never look back.

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