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Issue Date: February 2007

Corporate communication – why we cannot just ‘send and receive’ anymore

February 2007
Robert Sussman, joint MD at Integr8 IT

It may be one of the more convenient and most accessible means of modern communication, but the reality of engaging in corporate e-mail communication is effective management and adherence to legislation.

E-mail has grown to the extent that it is far more than a mere practical way to digitally interact. This established medium in society is widely considered to be, first and foremost, a critical business tool. And businesses are turning to outsourcing in a bid to ensure compliance and secure the most affordable and reliable approach to ICT investment.
From an e-strategy point of view, the majority of businesses intend to migrate from a paper-based environment to one that is focused on document imaging, specifically around communication.
As a result of e-mail being a common business communication, users tend to store e-mail correspondence in their inboxes and folders. In effect this means that a company’s corporate and intellectual property is stored in messaging systems. This should already inspire management towards establishing an improved level of corporate governance.
E-mail has to be well-managed in order for a business to achieve optimum levels of digital communication. However, another, arguably more pertinent reason for this discipline, is the current focus on the archiving of data and access to electronic records.
Corporate South Africa is being directed, through legislation and industry-led awareness campaigns, to ensure that they tow the line as far as the way information is archived, accessed and reproduced.
Legislation that has been enacted to serve this cause includes the Companies Act of 2000, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT Act), The Promotion of Access to Information Act, King II Report, as well as the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Interception Act).
The ECT Act recognises the need for a managed e-mail environment, including online transactions. The Act was also established to prevent abuse of information systems, as well as to serve as a guide for a national e-strategy.
The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Interception Act) continues to impact on the local business environment.
This legislation is directly applicable to the governance of e-mail usage including circumstances that allow for interception of e-mail and other practical scenarios within the work environment. This is extremely important given the value of corporate data and the extent to which cyber criminals are prepared to target businesses to solicit this data.
The immediate implication of this legislation, aside from attention to Information and Communication Technology, infrastructure, security and policies, is that companies are obliged to get their houses in order from an e-mail point of view.
This means that a business or organisation is compelled to not only be able to store information but do so according to an indexed system. In other words storage must involve more than the transfer of information over to a portable device or back up service. Records have to be reproduced in their original format and without any changes. 
A company′s system has to be compliant. For this reason it is important that decision makers fully understand this legislation and how it can impact on the business.
There is technology out in the market that assists in this process and credible service providers who can advise, but businesses should be vigilant in their approach and adopt a meticulous approach to reviewing credentials.
The reason behind the need for caution is due, in part, to the volume and variety of e-mail management solutions now available. The range covers large enterprises right down to the small-to-medium sized operation.
A current trend in the market is to outsource to service providers that can implement the solutions based on reliable, relevant hardware, software and/or a mesh of both. It goes without saying that unscrupulous merchants do exist and integrating any solution without applying some form of criteria-check can be devastating to the business.
Outsourced service providers should have proven experience in the market and any service offering proposed in the local South African market, requires an option to be provided as a host service on the client’s site. In addition to the right technical expertise and proven skills base, a prospective partner should also meet relevant criteria as far as broad-based economic empowerment is concerned.
Basically, from a core operational point of view, effective management of a business tool and compliant systems are no longer ′nice-to-haves′, but essential aspects of the modern competitive business.

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