How many times have you heard the old claim that “Email is dead”? Surely, more than once. To the surprise of many, and despite the rise of new messaging tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams during the pandemic, Email remains by far the most widely used communication tool in many businesses. Every day, more than 300 billion emails are sent and received globally, and employees spend an average of 5 hours checking their online correspondence. This trend is only expected to rise in the upcoming years, especially within project and client-based industries – like architecture, engineering and construction – that heavily rely on this means of communication.
However, its consolidated use doesn’t always equal efficiency, particularly in companies that don’t set up the necessary internal processes to file emails in a central space. With the silent threat of poor mail management, many architecture firms and other businesses must face unnecessary risks, time and productivity costs, and increased stress among workers.
Why are emails important for architects?
Understanding the role Email plays in architecture is key to comprehend the risks of poor management. In order to complete a certain number of projects in a specific time frame, it is well known that architects are highly time-oriented. And because “time is money”, productivity is crucial – hence the importance of dedicating more time to design and onsite work, and less time to reading emails.
Even though communication within architecture firms tends to occur through internal channels like private messages or document sharing software, Email is still the most relevant way to contact all the multidisciplinary actors involved in a construction process. Whether it be to contact clients, send plans and renders, or coordinate meetings, it is a convenient, professional, and cost-effective method to keep track of all conversations and files. And, unlike social media, the vast majority of people have an account, meaning it can segment audiences, guarantee information is received, and attract new potential clients. However, to ensure that Email doesn't do more harm than good, it must be managed efficiently.
The risks associated with poor mail management in architectural projects
Because every architecture project includes an endless amount of information stored in emails, improper management can have many risks. Email overload is often due to two reasons: a high volume of unnecessary emails and storing data in individual inboxes instead of public folders that are easier to find. Therefore, it is hard to know where critical emails are when they are needed, and it only takes losing an email with a client, engineer or contractor for a project to potentially become a disaster. This lack of control over mail management leads to confusion, stress, reduced productivity, and rework, making it is increasingly challenging to complete buildings on time.
In fact, according to a 2020 Mail Manager survey, one-third of respondents spend at least one hour per day managing inboxes, a statistic that especially applies to project managers or those in charge of overseeing projects from planning to completion. Since “time is money”, delays caused by poor mail management lead to additional costs that impact a project’s performance and value.
More time for architecture, less time for emails
Often, people don’t realize how important an email is until something goes wrong. Thus, all information must be discoverable to avoid costly issues in fields like architecture – and, ultimately, keeping track of all correspondence will always be a benefit. In fact, it could even mean the difference between winning or losing a legal dispute. Luckily, with the rise of technology and artificial intelligence (AI), organizing information has never been easier, making mail management systems possible and simple.
With this in mind, Arup developed Mail Manager over ten years ago, a solution designed to help project and client-based businesses easily control and access their email in a central location. Essentially, it is an AI-powered platform that installs as a plug-in to Microsoft Outlook to organize mail workflow. How does it work? With two simple features: an efficient email filing tool that keeps related documents together and a fast search. The software quickly learns to predict where emails should be filed, ensuring they are held in the most appropriate folder.
This is ideal for architecture firms because any piece of a complex project can be accessed during construction processes or in the future from an archive, leaving painful searches for specific emails in the past. At the same time, no one is excluded from the communication loop, which is vital to avoid delays and reworks. Architects can thus use Email as a tactical advantage by taking control of communication overloads, help teams work more efficiently, and reduce time spent on emails – which in turn translates to productivity gains, improved client service, decreased costs, and less risk. But most importantly, effective mail management leads to more time for a better architecture.