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Bulging Inboxes Drive New Email Solutions
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SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office
As complaints about email mount, some small companies look
for new ways to communicate. Read about how some business
professionals have progressed from email to new solutions
that help them more effectively communicate.
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Bulging Inboxes Drive New Email Solutions
By CHRIS REITER From Dow Jones Newswires
Steve Gongaware, director of business development
at Management Science Associates Inc., knew some-
thing needed to change last summer when his efforts
to email a proposal to a prospective client were
After several days and no response, he phoned the
prospect and discovered that his first email never
arrived. Subsequent messages showed up, but spam,
antivirus and other filters corrupted the all-
"I kept striking out, and it was getting kind of
embarrassing," says Mr. Gongaware. "It seems like
email gets less and less effective for communicat-
As almost anyone with an inbox can appreciate,
email can be both a godsend and a nightmare for
businesses. Spam clogs email systems, and hackers
use email to deliver software programs that seek
to disable computer systems or steal data. Filters
designed to combat these problems can interfere
with legitimate communications. Internally, a
flood of email, both business-related and personal,
hurts productivity by slowing everyone down.
Messages are often misdirected, and it can be
difficult to keep the information flow organized.
These problems can be particularly difficult for
small businesses, which don't have the information-
technology departments to handle them and can ill
afford productivity lapses because of their small
staffs. So small businesses are looking at a
variety of software tools that help them manage
their email or offer alternative communication
A Web Solution
Mr. Gongaware of MSA, an information-technology
services company based in Pittsburgh, ultimately
gave up on email in his effort to send his
proposal to the prospective client. Instead, he
used software created by another Pittsburgh
company, a start-up called SalesGene Corp., to
post the proposal on a Web site dedicated to the
project. He then sent the prospect a login name
and password for the site by email.
Soon after that, Mr. Gongaware got an email notify-
ing him that the prospect had accessed the site,
which helped him time his follow-up phone call.
"Since I knew he was looking at it, I was able to
call him at the right time," Mr. Gongaware says.
The SalesGene product, called Landslide, allows
companies to set up Web sites that can store
documents, messages and other materials relevant
to a specific sale. It gives salespeople an alter-
native to sending emails with bulky attachments,
and helps manage the flow of information by
preventing multiple versions of documents from
floating around in email systems.
Mr. Gongaware says he was so pleased with his
initial experience with Landslide, and so frustra-
ted with the declining reliability of email, that
MSA is in the process of rolling out the software
across the company, which employs about 900 people.
Similar document-sharing services are available
from providers including WebEx Communications
Corp. of San Jose, Calif., and Microsoft Corp.,
John Fisher, controller at Forgital USA Inc., had
a different email problem -- an internal one.
"There were too many people fooling around," using
email for personal communications, he says. That
made them less productive, a problem that's
magnified in a company the size of Forgital, which
has only 50 employees.
And there was a more tangible impact at Forgital
of the loose use of email and the Internet. Mr.
Fisher says the company was forced to destroy two
computers a few years ago because they had become
so infected by viruses that "we couldn't get them
cleaned up." Such expenses are difficult to absorb
for small businesses in a tightly contested market.
So Mr. Fisher clamped down, tuning out employees'
complaints that they were being unfairly punished
for their colleagues' sloppy email and Internet
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Forgital, a Houston-based subsidiary of Italian
machine-parts maker Forgital Italy SpA, now blocks
all outgoing and incoming email traffic except
messages to or from approved addresses. It does so
with software supplied by security-software firm
Burstek of Bonita Springs, Fla.
No More Fooling Around
This follows an effort to curtail personal Web use
by allowing the company's employees to access only
Internet sites that Forgital determined are
necessary for business. These approved sites don't
include Web mail services such as Hotmail or Gmail,
which means Forgital's employees can send personal
emails only on personal time.
This has raised productivity, because, Mr. Fisher
says, "people aren't fooling around anymore."
Another concern that some companies have about
email is its inefficiency -- too many messages
going to the wrong people, and too many not making
it to the right people. These companies may not
need the kind of restrictive security software
Forgital uses, but may benefit from so-called work-
Neil Montgomery, president and chief executive of
Davis Controls Ltd., realized recently that the
disorganized nature of the company's internal email
was hurting productivity. "Email orphaned bits of
information," he says, describing the tendency of
many email messages not to reach everyone they
should. "We needed to have all the information in
one place" to ensure that all the appropriate
people had access to it."
So the Oakville, Ontario, engineering firm adopted
e-Synergy workflow software from Exact Software,
an Andover, Mass., unit of Dutch company Exact
Holding NV. The software helps route internal
information such as account notes and project up-
dates, as well as relaying requests such as
scheduling vacations and submitting purchase
orders. By automatically sending messages to the
appropriate person and tracking the response,
the software helps take the guesswork out of such
day-to-day tasks. And that means fewer misdirected
messages or mass mailings that might reach the
right person but also clog the inboxes of others.
Davis employees now use email only to communicate
with the outside world. The e-Synergy software
still allows them to communicate with each other
individually, and companywide personal missives
like baby pictures or birthday wishes are posted
to a bulletin board that everyone can see.
"We understand and accept the fact that people
still need to communicate with each other social-
ly," Mr. Montgomery explains. "We don't police
this, as we don't want to reinforce anyone's idea
that Big Brother might be watching."
Altman Lighting Co., another user of Exact's e-
Synergy, used to have problems with misdirected
mass mailings clogging inboxes.
"We spent a lot of time reading emails that didn't
pertain to us," says Roger Pujol, assistant general
manager of the Yonkers, N.Y., maker of theatrical
lighting. The lack of clear communication processes
created inefficiencies and a lack of oversight.
"Things would get done three or four times or not
at all," says Mr. Pujol.
Like Davis Controls, Altman Lighting no longer
uses email for internal communications. E-Synergy
saves employees about an hour a day that otherwise
would have been spent culling irrelevant emails,
Mr. Pujol says.
Davis's Mr. Montgomery is even more upbeat about
the impact on his company. He says the 50-person
engineering firm is able to process three to four
times more work than before with the same amount
of staff. The better control of information and
improved productivity is a matter of survival for
companies the size of Davis, he says.
"Customers are becoming more and more impatient,"
says Mr. Montgomery. "I can't imagine trying to
manage a business competitively without these
kinds of tools."
DID YOU KNOW?
If you do not handle all financial transfers between you
and the corporation as you do those with either a standard
investor or employee, then you might place your corporation
status and protections in jeopardy. You would document a
loan made to or received from a third party, and you must do
the same between you and the corporation.
So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let
me know at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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