How Much Control & Visibility Do You Have of Your Email Content?
Email, often considered just silo within which information is stored, holds a wealth of project-critical information. Unfortunately, achieving best in class email management comes with it’s share of challenges for professionals in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. This episode of the Project Ready podcast, featuring CEO Joe Giegerich and Head of Development Shaili Modi Oza, will explore email management challenges and solutions for the AEC. Read on to learn more about what you will hear on this episode.
Project scope changes and crucial correspondence are frequently buried within employees’ inboxes, with a staggering percentage flowing through email threads. Ignoring the importance of incorporating email data into a system of record poses considerable risks, including delays, rework, litigation exposure, and diminished efficiency. And the challenges don’t stop there. Searching for relevant emails within project contexts can be an uphill task due to the lack of streamlined processes for attaching emails, assigning metadata, and capturing workflows. Additionally, a significant portion of project-related reviews, approvals, and RFIs are initiated from email communication, highlighting the need for improved workflow management and enhanced visibility.
So, what should you look for in an email management solution? Tune in to explore the critical features that ensure seamless capturing, tracking, and searchability of vital information from emails. From registering emails and attachments to projects for increased visibility to managing complex workflows and creating tasks, we’ll guide you through the must-have functionalities. And, for more information and solutions, visit www.project-ready.com/manage-email.
What You’ll Learn About Email Management In The AEC
- Why effective email management in the context of a project is important and the unique challenges AEC professionals face when dealing with emails.
- How streamlined workflows can help project teams organize and manage project-related emails.
- The importance of integrating email management into your organization’s project information management strategy.
- How Microsoft 365 (M365) Groups can be used to centralize project-related emails.
- How ProjectReady delivers effective email and workflow management directly out of Outlook.
Note: This is Part of a special podcast series on “Microsoft 365 and the AEC”. You can click here to see the rest of the series which covers SharePoint, M365 as an overview and Microsoft Teams.
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Hi everybody, this is Joe Giegerich from ProjectReady. With me today as always is Shaili Modi Oza, our head of development and the brains behind what we have built over the last few years. And today we want to just pick up on some of the challenges for the AEC, today specifically about email. And these challenges, frankly, if you’re in professional services anywhere, are pretty much uniformly the same. There are challenges though as it relates that are somewhat specific to the AEC. And so before we dig in, we have upcoming podcasts we’d like you to look out for, Microsoft Teams and the AEC. And previous podcasts in this series include making M365 work for the AEC, and that’s an overview cast. And then we have something with a bit more detail around SharePoint in the AEC, so this is sort of a companion piece to that series.
So one of the contentions that I make uniformly is that email is just another silo to manage. And so this is endemic throughout the AEC, right? That you have email that comes in, different systems that are siloed and connected, and email is just yet another silo at the end of the day, particularly if there’s no way to manage it effectively, easily and in the context of a project.
And one of the things I can honestly say is there is no way email is going away anytime soon, if in our lifetime. It’s easy. You forward something, you attach something, somebody sends you an attachment, and there’s a lot of context in the email itself, but more than 80% of correspondences flow through email to this day and it is just not properly managed. It’s a document like anything else that needs to be controlled. So where we want to go today is to discuss some of those specific challenges and then talk about its impact and maybe some approaches you can have. So Shaili, from your observation working with our clients, what are some of the primary challenges that they face and that obviously we think we solve for?
Yeah, definitely Joe. I think everything you mentioned is definitely true in terms of emails where we’ve had so many clients where even though we have all of these systems with SharePoint and Procore and Autodesk where documents are stored. The easiest option is always email. And there are so many external vendors users who are sending you documents and files, and sometimes things are even within emails that have basically project related information that needs to be logged and tracked as a part of the project. So a lot of this information that comes into emails, there is duplicate information because people get various emails around projects. So it’s just a matter of, it’s such an unorganized form of data that comes in and it becomes very difficult for everybody to manage that and making sure that it all gets logged properly and it’s tracked in context of the project that the users are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
Yeah, I mean the content in those emails themselves is arguably the most important stuff at the end of the day. And the big thing about documents in general, and again, email and their attachments are just documents. And the reason why document control exists as a concept is, look man, this is going to pin you to your contracts, litigation, lost revenue, and vice versa. Right. Some of the specific challenges of routing email or handling email, just rattle off some of the things that you’re… What are some of the specific challenges slash workflows that the everyday AEC user needs to wrap their head around?
Yeah, I would say definitely to even start with the ability to search the emails. It’s very difficult in Outlook to get that information. We’ve seen clients who use different kinds of tags and everything like groupings to basically organize the emails, but at the end of the day, it’s all just in your inbox making it very difficult to look for that information. So even the simplest thing as filing the email properly for the project is one of the workflow I think, which is simple but very effective that all the emails which are associated to a project, they need to be filed properly, which helps then the users, the ability to search for emails and not just the emails, all the attachments and even additional properties around the emails where if you want to tag an email to a particular discipline or phase of the project, it just makes all of that much more easier to then search and manage.
Yeah, it’s this critical component of a project’s dataset, if you will. And all data as it relates to a project, be it your data, your vendors, your owners, really has to be addressed and managed in the context of the project itself. And I think that’s actually one of the bigger challenges. You can forward an email to somebody which gets you nowhere. It’s just a black hole. There’s formality to the management of an email. Somebody requests information or it’s part of a submittal process and submittals themselves go inside and outside your organization and inside different loops. So this is just one of a few of the emails or a few of the workflows that are required to manage email. And then what I like to really always stress too is then there is these quote unquote edge cases, which are really the daily routine. Like when you get an email in and somebody go and they forward it to your colleague and three days later you ask them if they did something with it, the answer is likely to be no.
Everybody gets more than a few emails in their inbox every day. So even the pedestrian thing or seemingly pedestrian of being able to make that email, its attachments a task in the project that you can assign responsibility to, even that alone isn’t being addressed.
Yeah, I think definitely that’s a big part of everybody’s day to just review so many emails, especially in the AEC industry, if people are sending you attachments that you need to review or something that needs to be looked at and needs a response, definitely creating that task, it’ll put that on a user’s calendar. Just makes that more of an actionable email so you don’t lose track from so many things coming into your inbox for sure.
Right. And RFI submittals sending around things for approval, these are all things that we do. It’s all standard in the industry. The industry has these bespoke workflows or SOPs for a reason. They tend to tie to contract and responsibility, but it’s been my observation and Shaili, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that actually most of what you have to handle is either creating a task to follow that up or quite frankly, just getting that content into one of your systems, registering it to the project. It’s not a formal response, it’s not part of a formal defined workflow. And it’s probably the bulk of the management you have to do with email. I don’t have a real stat on that, but just observationally, that’s been what I’ve been seeing.
Yeah, we’ve seen that as one of the greatest challenges where there are so many attachments coming in just as emails to make sure that they get sent to the correct location, just downloading them, and then uploading them to the right places. It’s a lot of manual intervention there itself.
Yeah, it’s just a waste of human capital and intellect, right? I mean, this is an industry that thankfully is very busy these days to do the stimulus bill and a whole bunch of other stuff. So you’re going to take your talent that you have, that you pay a reasonable price for and ask them to brute force routine activities and hope to get it right. Because one of the other problems with email is it’s very easy to overlook it. Flew in, forwarded it, dead end. Nobody ever knows again what happened with that email until something goes wrong later on. And if you haven’t addressed it, frankly, if you haven’t had a way to capture the amount of time you spent on it as a legitimate billable task at a project, you’re losing money there as well. So you’re losing money all over the place by the risk of not answering of things being overlooked, making it too hard to find this, no formal recognition.
You got to go and email somebody saying, “Yes, I answered the email,” copy them and then you’re out to lunch and somebody needs to see that email. And so this would be a pivot into. So Shaili, if you would explain some of the unique features around M365. Folks, when we roll out a project for folks, we automate the whole project setup process. So you can roll out M365 Procore into the ACC with the same metadata, all that kind of great stuff. But within the context of M365, Shaili, tell me a little bit about M365, how it addresses email and what are some of the facility that you see there.
Yeah, definitely. So as we provision M365, now that it’s all kind of bundled up together, it starts at the core. There is an M365 group and there is a Teams team that can be created a SharePoint site, but specifically for emails. It creates this M365 group mailbox essentially, which would become the project mailbox. So we would provision that automatically when the project site gets created and basically all the emails which are associated to the project can be logged and filed in that M365 group. And they all basically become in context of the project. So by simply dragging and dropping emails in there, by keeping that email address in a CC, we can essentially take care of managing emails and getting them in context of the project.
And for those of you who are of an age, I certainly am, a lot of you out there who are going to remember public folders. The group mailbox in large measure is that public folder except better if you will. And so it’s great. So you get this group mailbox in our case, we can just roll it out for you as we go along automatically and make it work for you. But some of the challenges around that. So great. You have a group mailbox, now you have a hundred projects. Talk to me about some of the challenges that represents.
Yeah, definitely. And out of the box, Microsoft only has a way to, you can drag and drop emails and basically put them in the group mailbox. What we figured and saw from our customers that just putting the email in there doesn’t make it that much easier. There is no search across these groups. There is no way to tag or properly organize these emails, which is where using the M365 functionality, but we add on top of it where we can now add metadata to these emails, which makes it just that much more powerful that now you can tag all of these emails with metadata properties and then by logging all of this information in the backend, we put all of this information in our Azure SQL database. So cross projects, we can get that kind of a portfolio level report of all the emails as well, including the email properties, the additional metadata tags that we add, the attachment information, all of this important information would be logged and tracked in the database for searching and reporting.
Right? It’s kind of like cooking a big time amateur chef. And so you may take somebody else’s base, if you will, as you’re cooking something, but you want to add to it. So it’s an accelerator to get you going, but it’s not a meal yet. And to make it a meal worth eating, that is one of the many things that you have to do in specific this group mailbox is can we get metadata in it, please? Can we search it? Can we search across those mailboxes?
Another thing though that we do very uniquely, and it kind of cuts across the board with what we do, but it’s a universal challenge that we address, is finding all this stuff quickly. If you’ve had a hundred projects, you have a hundred group mailboxes and you want to make sure that if you’re dropping and dragging and adding metadata through our system and the like, that you’re in the right place and that you can find it in something under than five minutes. You just want to click and go. So the navigation to these assets is also a bit of a problem. It takes too long and you can get it wrong. That’s one of the other things that is, downside would be the wrong word, but one of those many things that I have this expression, taming M365, that is one of the things that has to be tamed across that stack is finding the right asset quickly without having to go through excessive navigation in each of the respective applications.
Yep, yep. Agreed.
All right. And so another thing that I think is a common pain point is sending out attachments. So again, you’re going to have to do it, but if you can’t log it’s no longer part of the project record. You need an easy way to do that. And one of the challenges we see, particularly for construction managers and program and project managers is the content that they need to send out to an attachment because their client just refuses any other way to receive this information. For instance, if they got content, even just SharePoint, they’re going to have to select several documents, download that, go to a different library, download that, and now make it worse. Now they have to log into Procore or ACC to get to other related assets that reside in those systems. This takes 10 minutes to send out one email. So this is one of the many things that we solve for as well. Shaili, is there anything you would add to that?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. What you mentioned, Joe, that it’s very time-consuming to even browse through all of the different systems where you’re trying to get attachments. And it’s not easy if you’re trying to send three attachments from all of these different places. By having that connection that we do it just by from one simple user interface, users can just browse all of these systems, quickly, select the files and send out an email. So I would say as important as incoming emails are, it’s this combination of managing both incoming and the outgoing emails. And again, all of this information would be logged and tracked in the same way that incoming emails are. It’ll just keep all of that consistent for the project.
Yeah, I mean an email, which was an EML, it’s a document so you can’t orphan it and leave it out there. And we talked to customers, Procore is a great product, they’re using it for what it works well and emails they’re in. But it’s all these other things like registering, creating tasks, sending out attachments, dealing with that, particularly across multiple systems is a real time burn.
And statistically the industry’s leaving something like 1.6 trillion a year on the table for what I would describe as operational inefficiency by doing things in a way that are more reminiscent of the late nineties rather as opposed to as we head toward, I guess the mid-21st century. Personally. I think also the industry itself, because of all the slick stuff that the AEC does, their focus, traditionally the industry’s focus has been on drones and AI on piping and from our formal webcast, but they’re missing operational efficiency. It is a professional services industry. That’s why I also started with, frankly, everything I’m describing here is pretty common. I mean, if you’re a lawyer, what you got to do? You got to go between SharePoint and, say, OpenText, right? Data’s not everywhere in one place. Rather it is everywhere. And I don’t expect that landscape to shift very much over the next few years.
Okay, what do I do from here? All right, so let me try this. So anyway, so we’ve covered email specifically Microsoft email and the like. And I guess the only parting comment I would give is kind of where we started. Email is not going away, but it does desperately need to be managed. And we’ve recorded videos and ROI calculators, but no joke. I mean some of these activities can take you 10 minutes and if you’re doing the same activity, 10 minutes, 10 times a day, times a hundred employees, that is an incredible burn of capital. And so in our case, we really look to simplify that whole process really rapidly, reduce the overhead and make sure that you can find it in the context of the project. These are key pillars, be you going with us as a solution or anybody else, how quickly, how accurately and what time can you save?
And the thing I say to everybody is look at how many times a day you do it, you go, it’s an extra five minutes, you do it 10 times, that’s an extra hour, you got a hundred, that’s a hundred hours a day. Say your rate is 85, 8,500 a day, 200 days. You see where I’m going on the price on this. And that’s just on email, let alone how long it’s going to take you later to find it if you haven’t dealt with this upfront. We really are very ardent in our belief that you have to deal with these silos and the management of content and information from the very beginning and have a plan for it and some sort of solution, which obviously we think ours is among the best in the marketplace.
What’s our next upcoming webcast, Rick? And so that’s a bit about email. Our next podcast is going to be about M365 and Teams. And again, the overarching theme of this whole thing is everybody owns it. Something like 98% of companies of any size or measure own M365, but they just use it for email, don’t have any management tools around email. And then there’s teams. And so teams, which is incredibly powerful for communications also has many of the exact same challenges around security and bloating governance, frankly, that all this does SharePoint and Outlook. So look forward to talking to you next time. Shaili, as always, thank you. And hope to hope that you tune in again soon. And hope that you tune in again soon.