Email-Based Collaboration Ineffective, Frustrating for Businesses

Collaboration and email accessibility are critical components to a successful business, but companies are unsatisfied with the way the two fit together.

With offices becoming more decentralized as workforces become more mobile, collaboration is a key component of boosting business productivity. However, a survey of 1,400 business users across six continents by cloud-based document management software specialist KnowledgeTree found the process of creating and approving team-generated content is hobbled at the vast majority of organizations, despite that fact that teamwork and document sharing are central to how co-workers collaborate.

Among the biggest obstacles to effect workplace collaboration was email technology, particularly when it comes to document approval and process procedures. While email was the primary vehicle among survey respondents for approving documents—61 percent of contracts, budgets and other document approvals are done via email--only 13 percent of users surveyed said they find the process to be efficient. In addition to the multiple iterations, 59 percent of documents need to be revalidated post-approval, making filtering through old emails to find authorizations more difficult.

The survey also indicated removing email from the picture was a way to drastically improve efficiency. Survey respondents said they have increased productivity by 43 percent and saved as much as three days for the average document with a document management system. Still, 59 percent of professionals still gather input on contracts, proposals and other documents through email, and the cascade of suggestions and attachments through email is the reason just 16 percent of these professionals think it is easy to gather input.

“Document management is a challenge for all businesses. This new data reveals that email adds unnecessary obstacles that impair productivity and affect the bottom line,” KnowledgeTree CEO Daniel Chalef said in a statement. “Real-time co-authoring and collaboration tools bring a structured approach to document management that amplifies efficiency and helps companies rule their documents.”

The survey also indicated collaboration is not a pleasant experience, with 79 percent of respondents saying that the process of working across teams was frustrating. Adding to the frustration is the repeated revision of documents, with the vast majority (90 percent) of documents going through at least three revisions, with back-and-forth of input between colleagues. Overall, 94 percent of all contracts, proposals and other business documents required teams to produce.Another sticking point related to security, as respondents pointed out sharing document-based information across teams isn’t easy. The ability to restrict access to just the right people and roles is difficult, with more than half of respondents saying they find controlling authorization to be a significant challenge when they share documents through email.

A recent report by MeriTalk, an online resource for government IT and sponsored by software company Axway, suggested the security around government email collaboration is even worse, with 47 percent of agencies saying there is a need for better email policies and 45 percent reporting that employees do not follow these policies. The survey indicated email encryption is a growing issue for federal IT managers, with 51 percent of information security professionals seeing email encryption becoming a more significant problem for federal agencies in the next five years.