High-profile scandals such as Worldcom and Enron shown that email management is too important for business to be left to chief information officers (CIOs) who are more worried about rising costs, according to Gartner.
Few firms are giving email management the attention it deserves, Gartner warns. Companies' bandwidth requirements are doubling every six months, the analyst said, with email a major cause of that surge in demand.
"The cost of supporting email, technology infrastructure, IT and so on has got to a point where CIOs are under pressure to sort it out," said Gartner vice president Alexander Drobik.
He warned that too many business people are turning a blind eye to the potential problems posed by email, and failing to allocate budget or human resources because they do not understand the risks or obligations facing them.
"Email isn't replacing the need for communication but it's now in digital format," explained Drobik.
"It's very easy for it to be copied and many people in business don't realise that they could be breaking the law. Digital content is a fingerprint of the activities of a company.
"Legislators, including the government and the stock exchange, know that the smoking gun is in the network. But most companies don't have anyone who's thinking about the issue."
Brian Collins, a director of BuyIT, a group that promotes best practice for purchasers and suppliers of IT, and a former IT executive at GCHQ, said: "What is lacking is a professional approach inside IT departments."
John Rade, president and chief executive at e-commerce and financial software company AXS-One, indicated that 70 to 80 per cent of the information in a typical organisation is carried by email in a totally unstructured way.
"Given the pervasiveness of email, you have to treat it as a system," he said. "We need a more systematic approach to email. Whether we like it or not, email is a mission-critical system in the modern organisation."
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