A recent survey by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute indicated that 20.1 percent of companies surveyed say they’ve had e-mail and instant messages subpoenaed. A bit more than 13 percent have been sued over employee e-mail. But only 35.1 percent have an e-mail retention policy.

Scary stuff. But the numbers are not scary enough to get your top management to budget more for proper e-mail and IM policy training and enforcement, are they? It’s hard to quantify the risk of slack messaging management. And it’s often cheaper to pay a fine than it is to obey the law.

So how do we make a business case for good messaging policy right now? By using it to get rid of real dollars we’re spending right now.

No, we can’t quantify the potential cost of employees behaving badly on e-mail and IM. But our help desk logs can tell us the cost of solving e-mail and IM-related problems. Spam, viruses and worms cost both IT and users time – and sometimes downtime. User training can cut those costs. That puts a hard dollar value on e-mail and IM training. And it turns training into a cost-reduction project, which is more appealing to budgeters.

When we’ve nailed a solid ROI for teaching users how to use e-mail and IM correctly, it’s cheap to tack on explanations of legal issues, regulatory requirements, best practices and good manners. The benefits may be unquantifiable, but at least the incremental cost is small.

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