E-mail search wastes time: report

According to a new report from San Mateo, Calif.-based messaging and collaborative technologies analyst firm Ferris Research, people typically spend at least one to two hours per week on e-mail-related tasks other than actually reading or writing messages.

These “overhead tasks” including waiting for e-mail to download, searching through folders to find messages, printing out e-mails, filing messages into folders, processing spam and virus, and using address books, the report said.

Of all the overhead tasks cited in the report, searching through e-mail was determined to have the most impact on a user’s time per week. Printing out e-mails and filing messages into folders were identified as the second and third most common time drains, respectively, the study found.

One of the big problems, according to the report, is that many e-mail products – notably Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook – have very poor search capabilities. When search tools are hard to use and fail to work well, users typically default to finding messages in one of two ways.

The most common is to sort messages by a column and then manually scan for a desired message. For example, a user might go to the Sent items folder and sort by recipient name or e-mail address. Failing this, users typically revert to the built-in search feature in their mail client, which is often a time-consuming process.

One of the report’s conclusions was users with poor e-mail search capabilities need better tools.

The report, entitled The Time Overhead of E-mail, can be viewed at www.ferris.com or at www.statalabs.com.