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Technology’s impact on business communication unabated

These days, it’s hard to imagine doing business of any kind without electronic mail. Saving time and energy, e-mail is a great tool when used properly. All types of organizations utilize this electronic wonder but must exercise some control.

At Mississippi’s largest private employer, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, about 8,000 employees use e-mail for many tasks. Jan Rightout, vice president and chief information officer, says e-mail has changed the world.

“Now everything is instantaneous. We’re intruded on in daily life and it has completely changed the dynamics of work,” she said. “We can get work done faster.”

Rightout has been in the business world 20 years — most of it at Northrop Grumman — and remembers the days of paper memos. There are times when she longs for the good old days. “But really, e-mail can be very productive with the right use,” she said.

She does, however, see some negatives with the use of e-mail. One is all that junk and spam that everyone receives. Even though Northrop Grumman has a robust program that blocks millions of spam, some still gets through.

“Another negative is that a lot of people find it easier to communicate by e-mail and don’t pick up the phone when they should,” Rightout said. “Also, we have to remind employees that what they put in e-mail is the same as a written document. Do not put anything in e-mail that you would not put in a written document.”

She feels people may become addicted to e-mail and may need to communicate in other ways. “Sometimes managers remind employees that they must communicate other than e-mail,” she added.

Mississippi College (MC) in Clinton gives every student and all faculty and staff members a school e-mail account, according to Barry K. Bounds, director of computer services.

“The MC account is becoming one of the primary means of communication with students,” he said. “Faculty uses it to communicate class information to students and the Bursar’s Office will use it to send statements. It is already being used for direct deposit notifications, too.”

Bounds says the private educational institution has basic dos and don’ts with the broad issues covered in the school’s acceptable use policy that covers appropriate use of resources, access restrictions, security, malicious conduct and ethical issues such as copyright violations.

Trustmark Bank uses e-mail for both internal and external communications. Gray Wiggers, senior vice president of public affairs, says it’s invaluable in getting messages and responses routed in a short period of time.

“One of the drawbacks is that one can occasionally get overwhelmed with requests by e-mail and get distracted from a more important task or project,” he said. “Legal issues could arise if an associate misuses the e-mail system for non-business purposes.”

Incidental or occasional personal use of e-mail is permitted at BellSouth but use of the internal electronic communications systems for inappropriate purposes — business or personal — is prohibited, according to Mike Walker, director of external affairs.

“BellSouth’s electronic communications systems and information transmitted using these systems are BellSouth Company property and are intended primarily for BellSouth business communications,” he said. “Employees should not open an e-mail that is of a questionable nature, such as one that has an unusual attachment, is from an unknown sender or is not expected from a known sender.”

Walker points out that electronic messages and text pages may be considered business records and that BellSouth owns those messages. Rules also prohibit employees from accessing personal e-mail accounts with BellSouth computers because that can cause the user to lose the company’s firewall protection. Additionally, they should not use personal accounts to conduct BellSouth business; use e-mail to hold online conversations, reply to hoaxes or forward chain letters, open or reply to spam or inappropriate e-mails.

Dave Bufkin, information technology director at Horne, LLP, says this large professional organization uses e-mail as a complementary communication tool to the telephone and to transfer documents between office locations.

“Employees are told not to open e-mail they are not expecting whether it is from a known or unknown sender; not to send applications, games, chain letters or jokes to other individuals; and not to send notes to large audiences unless it is business related,” he said. “Also, to use discretion when sending notes that others may view as personally offensive and to clean up e-mail boxes on a regular basis.”

Additionally, the Jackson-based CPA firm asks that information or data that is highly confidential not be sent via e-mail and that no non-sanctioned e-mail addresses be used for firm business.

“We add the standard Internet confidentiality notice to each outgoing e-mail,” Bufkin added.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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