Email is a wonderful thing – or is supposed to be. The trouble is that it is addictive and time consuming – many managers spend more than 25% of their working day dealing with their email in-box and feel outside their comfort zone when deprived of email connectivity. But when one considers that the estimate by the Radicati Group, a company supplying research in this area, is that 76%+ of the 267,000,000,000 email messages sent each day are spam, it is easy to understand that email has lost its competitive advantage as a communication process. Perhaps we should re-think our communications strategies!

Although the research suggests that corporate email suffers slightly less badly that private email – 66% of corporate emails are considered spam as against 82% of private emails – it still means that thousands of man-hours are being wasted in receiving and deleting non-productive mail. I recently put this to some senior managers and their response was that their corporate email filters were highly effective and so their people didn’t receive spam – but the research suggests this might be an error of perception. Radicati’s research suggests that 65% of all corporate spam messages are being delivered – and are thus deleted by the end-user. That is a staggering 39 billion corporate spam messages a day are actually reaching the in-boxes of business email users. This is estimated to cost businesses around $20.5 billion in decreased productivity and technical expenses.

The question that needs asking and answering is ‘what is spam?’ Okay, we all have a definition in our minds but mine would be ‘all email that contains irrelevant and/or inappropriate content and which was unsolicited by the end-user’. Using this definition, I have to say that a lot of spam may well be generated internally in organizations whose people have adopted a communication strategy that basically involves telling everyone about everything for fear of being ‘left out of the loop’.

Of course, there is also the spam that offers anatomical enhancement, prolongation of sexual performance, gorgeous ladies from Russia who just want to be your friend, over the counter pharmaceuticals, new/used/repaired mobile phone hand sets, and so on. According to figures produced by the Sophos, the internet security company, in 2005 over 60% of all spam produced in the world came from just four countries – the US which produced 24.5%, China including Hong Kong which produced 22.3%, South Korea which produced 9.7% and France which produced 5%. When I reviewed the content of my company and private spam boxes today, I would have to say that the figures for the US seem rather low and in my case it is closer to 75-85% comes from the USA.

The need to ensure that employees are not bombarded with spam and other irrelevant email is causing some companies to investigate the use of social-networking technology (the Facebook model) for their internal communications. This sets up its own issues, but at least you could chose who you receiving messages from.

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