Execs: Don't call us, send e-mail!

Is e-mail becoming a preferred means of communication instead of the telephone for IT and business leaders?

According to a new survey of some 387 worldwide corporate executives and IT leaders, 80 percent said they see e-mail as a more valuable communications method than the telephone, and 74 percent said they would have more difficulty if they lost e-mail access for five days than if they lost phone access.

The survey, done by Matt Cain, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., indicated that the top three reasons respondents said they prefer e-mail to phone are response flexibility, easy communication with multiple people at once and the default creation of a paper trail.

"I anticipated it would be a 50 percent to 50 percent split because I thought people have an attachment to the telephone," Cain said. But instead, after covering e-mail for the past 15 years, Cain said he sees a changing communications landscape.

Asked what they still prefer about phone communications over e-mail, business leaders said the telephone remains more personal, is an easier way to build personal relationships and is easier to use when traveling. Also cited was the fact that executives feel using a phone offers an immediate back-and-forth exchange, which allows them to keep communications in the proper context.

Cain said he thought it ironic that many users like the "paper trail" aspect of e-mail, despite the fact that many companies are leery of retention requirements for legal reasons whenever e-mail communications are hauled into court.

For businesses, the results of the survey show that investments in e-mail system improvements, including spam protection, antivirus controls and improved interfaces, are worthwhile additions, Cain said.

"E-mail is apparently more important (to users) than some companies think," he said.

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