Electronic communication is becoming an integral part of the communication structure
within organisations, but the costs and benefits are not being assessed. Communication
by email is usually assumed to be an efficient and effective means of sending
messages. However, on analysis the process is seen to be much more complex and
much less efficient than is normally assumed. Communication is carried out in many
different forms, but the common underlying motive of communication is to improve
working practices and to increase productivity. As communication pervades nearly
everything we do, even small improvements in the effectiveness and cost of our
communication processes can have significant benefits. The aim of this research was to
analyse the cost effectiveness of using email and to suggest ways in which the cost
effectiveness can be improved.
A number of studies have been conducted into the cost effectiveness of email within
organisations. The studies were carried out mainly at the Danwood Group, the
company sponsoring the author's PhD research. The Danwood Group has just over 500
employees at 19 sites around the UK and its head office is based in Lincoln, where all
of the email case studies in this thesis where undertaken. The Danwood Group retails
office equipment, predominately photocopiers.
Email behaviour was monitored by the use of software at the Danwood Group. This
raised a number of questions on the ethical issues of electronic monitoring. This thesis
explores these issues and proposes a set of guidelines to allow electronic monitoring
within strict professional and ethical guidelines.
The Danwood Group studies examined how and when email was used. It was found
that, when the company first started using email, over two thirds of messages were
non-business-related, though this dropped to less than half in a few months. It was also found that many messages could be delivered in one line of text. A one-line message
service was introduced and this was found to save employee time for both senders and
receivers of the messages.
A costing formula was developed measuring the human cost of operating email
messaging. The final study was to determine how long it took employees to recover
and return to normal work after an email interruption and this was compared with
published data for telephone interrupts. From these results a set of guidelines were
developed to enable companies to make the most efficient use of email.
The thesis concludes by identifying further areas of research into email usage that
would help give a better understanding of methods to enable email to become even
more cost effective.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.