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E-mail: still the one

Caroline Coderre, a registered investment advisor with Darrow, explains, “When I respond to incoming client e-mails, I also send the response to NetDocs. It then resides in the folder that contains all the documents related to that client.” Other employees can also access the folder, which makes the e-mail messages part of the client history rather than isolating them in an individual’s inbox.

As a financial services organization, the Darrow Company is subject to many compliance requirements, which are more easily met because of the integration of client e-mail with the document management system. “Typically, the auditors will want to see all documentation related to a particular set of clients over a specified time period,” Coderre says. “With the NetDocs application, we are able to do this very quickly.”

E-mail history

Because Darrow has integrated NetDocuments with Salesforce.com, the e-mails also can be seen in conjunction with client interaction data. In addition, the Darrow Company manages its e-mails using a separate records management solution, which is applied to all business correspondence.

NetDocuments allows several different methods of associating e-mails with client or project folders. One is through profiling, in which the user highlights the inbox message, and NetDocuments prompts the user to file the e-mail in a particular NetDocuments folder, based on the destination of previous messages from that sender. The other is by dragging and dropping messages into Outlook folders that are synchronized with NetDocuments. In either case, the messages become part of the client or project history without the user having to learn a new and possibly complex collaboration application.

NetDocuments designed its e-mail management service with the goal of eliminating information silos and making document management more collaborative. “Rather than having yet another system to manage e-mails,” says Danny Johnson, technology analyst at NetDocuments, “organizations can have a single service that captures and profiles e-mail messages. The messages are therefore searchable and available in the same repository as other documents. This puts all of a business’ information in one place for seamless collaboration, lower cost and greater simplicity.”   

A difficult shift

Given the well-known limitations of e-mail, why are collaboration and social networking seen as unlikely to replace it to a significant degree in the near future? “The inability to move to more efficient collaboration tools generally stems from a lack of awareness of other tools, unwillingness to change and a lack of user training,” says Matt Cain, VP at Gartner. Gartner predicts that in four years, about one-fifth of users will make a social network the hub of their business communications, either by building out their own or by permitting employees to use their personal social network accounts for business use.

Although some business-oriented social software solutions have done an excellent job of integrating e-mail and documents into project-oriented collaboration sites, adoption of those has not been pervasive. As with collaboration, shifting to an alternate paradigm can be difficult. Therefore, e-mail remains the preferred mode of business communication, for now at least.

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