If you are finding it difficult to get through your emails, you need to rethink your system, says Mike Anstee

In a report on wireless communication published by the Economist Intelligence Unit earlier this year, one of the main benefits identified by those questioned was "keeping on top of my emails". This is a sorry state of affairs, a new technology breakthrough to handle your post.

For most of us email overload is an everyday reality, and the email backlog we face on return from holiday can be a nightmare. We all complain, but is anyone doing anything about managing the overall impact of the email service in your organisation?

I am not just talking about how many emails each individual receives or how efficient the service is, but what the whole system looks like.

Most managers and front line staff in an insurance organisation have their own folder system with their own unique naming conventions. Most senior executives have a secretary/PA to organise their filing, although I know many who handle it themselves.

With external emails now arriving directly in the inbox of the addressee, the discipline of reply and filing is paramount. Is this happening in all areas of your business?

I question what the corporate filing system looks like. Outside the discipline of the PA/secretary controlled areas, I can imagine an expanding collection of incoherent files with very little central control. Just reading all of your emails is a tough task. Filing the important ones in a timely and coherent way is probably not always achieved. The larger the organisation, the worse the situation is likely to be.

Reference libraries of documents may exist, but are they complete? The corporate database may be strictly controlled, but what about the correspondence master file?

The quest for secure email across the insurance industry continues and new initiatives such as Kinnect and imarket are moving the reality of this further forward. However, unless the source or destination information in broker and insurer offices is complete and up to date then the whole networked solution could be invalidated.

Individual companies can probably live with the relatively low cost of holding multiple copies of documents, meeting minutes and reports, but what about the hidden costs of lost knowledge or documents? This data may not be physically lost, but lost in the desktop folders or email folders of individual underwriters or brokers, some of whom may have left the organisation. Not all underwriters and brokers understand the importance of controlling their email systems to ensure they have integrity of information.

I may be raising a non-issue for some, but for most organisations it is time to review the email service, especially the filing systems, to ensure that the technology you employ to communicate is not becoming an unman-ageable mess. It may not be a sexy project and payback could be difficult to define, but a quick audit of your system to prove the issues I raise do not exist could be time and money well spent, especially if you are moving further into conducting business electronically.

' Mike Anstee is an independent consultant at Hindsight Partnership and a non-executive director at Sirius Financial Solutions