Email was at the centre of a number of foul-ups last year. And with its very future in doubt, what's in store for the technology? Email expert Monica Seeley offers her predictions.
People now receive on average 110 emails per day, according to a study from research company Radicati. My own figures suggest the European trend is nearer 70 emails.
Whatever the precise number of emails you receive daily, the chances are it's still far too high and you end up failing to process them all properly.
For example, in June the Information Commissioner fined Surrey Council £120,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act by sending sensitive emails to the wrong people. And of course famously we had the mother-in-law's email to her future daughter-in-law which, while not involving business email, highlights how quickly hate email can go viral.
Then we had the Blackberry Crumble server problems in October, which left many users bereft of email and climbing up the wall in frustration.
These are just some of the more prominent email disasters, some of which have cost organisations dearly. In addition over the past year I have seen organisations losing up to 75 minutes per day per person simply through trying to process too much unnecessary email.
Looking at the trends and numbers suggests that email is the medium of choice for business communications and will be with us for at least another three to five years.
No doubt we will see a rise in the use of social media for marketing and broadcast type messages, but for auditable serious business communications email will continue to dominate the communications landscape.
What might 2012 hold for email? Here are my five predictions.
1. Email charters will grow in use and popularity
More organisations will adopt an email charter as they seek to enable people to change their email behaviour to improve productivity and combat email overload - and the stress which accompanies email overload.
2. Email archiving will remain important
Businesses continue to need to be able to save and find key emails that contain corporate history. Many may have implemented enterprise email archiving systems but many organisations still rely on individuals to do their own archiving on their own hard disk.
This approach often leads to the loss of valuable emails, which is costly to the organisation if they, say, contain evidence needed to defend itself in a legal dispute. Furthermore the best software is rendered useless if the users themselves do not...
Dr Monica Seeley is an international expert on email management and runs the Mesmo Consultancy. She is a visiting fellow at Cass Business School, City University, London, and has just written her third book, Brilliant Email, published by Pearson.