When I look around in offices, I typically see people sitting in front of their screens, reading, searching, and sorting through their email. For many years I have talked about this huge waste of time and money, especially in the graphic design industry, I’m talking about emails. As it turned out, not many people are aware that email is such a time waster.
Majority of financially successful people concentrate on reducing costs and not on making our day-to-day work and proofing more efficient. I recently saw the McKinsey Group and the Radicati Group articles about emails and was inspired to use their data for this article about design proof vs email proof software. I hope that this will help companies to open their eyes to the huge savings they have right in front of them, just by establishing an online proofing tool solution for their projects.
Table of contents:
Why proof app saves more money than email proofing
Although emails are the most efficient method of business communication, companies lose a lot of profits through email. Research shows that email contributes significantly to unnecessary business costs. These costs include the time taken by employees to sort and manage their email accounts as well as the amount of time it takes to approve an artwork. Sending information and file attachments back and forth results in huge consumption of server and storage resources, which increases IT costs for businesses.
No matter which statistics you trust, all the documentation points to the same direction, indicating that if we don’t stop for a moment and take some actions to change the way we collaborate, communicate, and handle the artwork proofing, email-related costs and communication problems for design companies will continue to grow in the next few years.
Remember those statistics: an analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that 28% of the work day in 2015 was spent managing, reading, and sorting through emails, and 85% of all company data is attached and stored in individual personal emails, potentially unavailable to the company. In the United States alone this translates into 1 trillion pieces of company data distributed in this way – every day. And the number of the graphic file among these is significant.
Sorting emails can be a difficult task for businesses, especially when they involve large numbers of artworks with corrections and revisions. According to the report by the Radicati Group, employees spend about 2 hours per day on emails. This time is spent searching and sorting through different emails, according to the needs and job functions of the individual employees and not to forget that it takes 16 minutes to refocus on their work after handling the email.
LEGO has documented that when they converted from email proofing to an online proofing software, they reduced their turn-around time by up to 35%. This change involved no longer attaching files to an email, but rather attaching messages to a file, stored project by project.
Make your own conclusions and action plan for turning this around at your company; I will just pinpoint three solutions that are practically no-cost:
- Establish an email policy concerning the use of CC, BCC, spam, and attachments.
- Don’t attach company data in emails: maintain it in a central archive, organized by the project.
- Use online proofing for all documents to be approved to eliminate a high volume of emails and attachments.
Why design proofing tools are not as popular as emails
In spite of the development of proofing software, email is still the most pervasive form of communication in the graphic design industry globally. The number of email accounts worldwide has been growing steadily in the recent past, with over 4.3 billion accounts in 2015 and over 5.5 billion projected for the end of 2019. (All data in this section is based on the 2015 report by the Radicati Group.)
The total number of email users (versus accounts) was about 2.6 billion in 2015 since the average number of accounts per user was 1.7. About 205 billion emails were sent and received daily. The number of users is expected to grow at a rate of 3% annually over the next four years. But the number of emails is increasing at a rate of 7%, which means that the number of emails per user is increasing rapidly. This data is an average for all businesses and industries; within the graphics and design industry, this trend is much more pronounced, due to both the number of documents and the number of people who have to approve them.
All these email growth factors make proofing software remain in the shade, although its efficiency is definitely higher. Many design artists like Tobias Kredel are trying to create workarounds instead of simply sending multiple emails with the same file; Tobias says that he himself uses links and Adobe Creative Cloud, but having a specialized software to have all projects and artworks in one place would be beneficial.
Emails have a negative influence on workflow compared to online proofing software
Emails are widely used to communicate different proofing issues that require the attention of project managers and other staff. Different research studies have evaluated the effect of email on employee productivity. In a report presented by Thor Clark (2014), employees in large and medium-sized organizations receive 304 business emails weekly (quite similar to the figures from the Radicati Group) and they check their emails 36 times an hour. Employees take approximately 16 minutes to refocus on their work after handling email. As a result, there are significant production costs arising from business emails, whether they are necessary or unnecessary. The Radicati Group’s 2015 report showed that 112 billion business emails are sent and received every day. This indicates the enormous cost that email imposes on businesses and on graphic design in particular, despite being the preferred form of communication for organizations.
Email distracts employees from their work. Americans spend 75 billion hours checking their email, which directly translates into the loss of productivity and valuable work time. A study by Contatta (2014) shows that email is the second largest consumer of work hours for employees.
Several different reports document that one-third of the employee’s day is spent on email: the conclusion is that the cost to your company and society as a whole is enormous. We all have to do something about this wasted time and expense.
Why we should reconsider our email communication in favor of design proofing tools
There is no question that email is the most prevalent form of business communication even in the graphic design sphere. The Radicati Group’s Email Statistics report indicates that the number of business and personal email users is likely to increase in the future, following observed past trends. The number of email users has increased from 2.6 billion to 2.9 billion between 2015 and 2019. The report also projects that the number of individuals using email for communication will increase to about one-third of the world in 2019. With communication being a significant part of the proofing process, this is a worrying tendency for design companies.
Radicati Group projects that business email will grow at a relatively lower rate than personal email communication, although it accounts for a larger proportion of the total emails sent daily. For example, in 2015, total emails sent and received daily were 205.6 billion, of which 112.5 billion were business related and 93.1 billion were for individual consumers. The overall growth rate for email usage in the United States in 2019 is projected at 5% annually. Business email is expected to grow at a slower pace of 3% per year, while consumer email will grow at 6% (Radicati Group, 2015). The number of business emails sent and received by business users was 122 per day in 2015, and is expected to grow to 126 by 2019.
All those figures document that making changes to the use of email has the potential to reduce operating costs significantly, enable design companies to work more efficiently than their competitors, increase company profits, and finally increase artwork security by ensuring that data is not stored in employees’ personal email boxes, but rather in centralized, easily accessible storage. One method for achieving these benefits could be to move to online proofing software, where files are not attached to emails and stored in individual email accounts, but rather messages are attached to a file, visible to everyone involved.
More than 85% of company data is stored in email attachments, as highlighted by Nathaniel Borenstein in a Guardian article from 2012. This is a huge problem, because that company data is stored on individual personal emails and not centralized, so other employees who need access can’t find them. According to a package design scientist Austin Schulte, collecting information from such a number of channels is a big problem in the design industry. There are several reasons why the volume is that high. Let me give you an example from the graphics industry.
All these email attachments and artworks increase the amount of storage space necessary on the email server as well as the use of internet bandwidth for transferring such large files. Email attachments can include communication with a client, memos, design corrections, approvals, as well as authorization and queries on different artworks, issues, or creative ideas. Ask your IT department: they will confirm that this massive amount of data attached to emails is a huge server problem and it is increasing. At the same time, employees come and go, get sick, and leave the company; important company data can be buried in their unused email accounts – as recently as just two years back! Another reason for the high volume is that more and more employees are using CC on their emails, a really bad habit.
Maybe we should re-think our email communication and collaboration style: instead of attaching a file to an email message, attach the message to the file! This is why online proofing solutions have had such success within the graphics industry. It suffers immensely from huge file attachments from those who are still using emails for proofing.
Attaching and storing files – a significant benefit of proofing software
Email systems typically limit the size of the attachments that they can hold, send, or receive. The limits on file sizes in most email servers is 10MB, but some services – notably, Outlook – allow email attachments as large as 20MB (PointDrive, 2014). The intent of these limits is to ensure that the services of these companies can continue effectively, since they prevent large files from clogging their servers. This means attachments that are larger than the set limits have to be sent through other platforms and email may not be sufficient for sending them effectively. For graphic design, it is a catastrophe, considering how many artworks of the larger size can simply get lost in the workflow. Another challenge with file size limitations is that they may take a lot of time to download or upload, hence increasing the resources used. This is the reason why companies have insisted that their bandwidth be higher and higher, instead of looking for a different approach such as proofing software, where there are no such limitations and storage is centralized within a particular project.
Because files sent back and forth among the different parties are stored on the same server, there is a major problem of file duplication. In order to address this issue, servers have to be cleaned up or defragmented frequently to prevent wastage of server space and other resources. So, how does the proofing software deal with this issue and all the issues above?
Proofing tools are the future of the graphics industry
In the graphics industry, email is used at a very high level as a means of delivering design proposals and, often, different versions of documents sent forth and back between many reviewers. Email provides a platform for the different users to check and approve designs in order to make necessary corrections that respond to the needs of the reviewers before publishing. Typically, huge files are attached to the emails, and the emails themselves contain lots of information about specific orders and projects. Often 3–50 reviewers are involved in the approval process for each version.
If a document is approved in a typical routing proofing flow of three people, and only one correction is done in the document for each email, it still creates 18 emails and 18 attachments, because emails are stored in both the employee’s inbox and outbox. A typical campaign within graphics production, with 20 documents in 16 languages and four versions, will create at the minimum 23,000 emails and 23,000 file attachments!
The use of email as the main communication channel presents several problems that affect companies and their management. These problems range from size restrictions, the time required for sorting, the need to convert files frequently, and disk space needs. This segment of the report indicates the problems that are associated with email use as a form of business communication for this use.
Using cloud storage of online proofing tools for data and files are the best solution to the problem. This option includes centralized storage of versions and “attachments” in the cloud, significantly addressing the challenges of email overuse facing companies in the graphics industry. This approach dramatically reduces the number of emails sent back and forth. It also aligns communications, decreases the need for users to make unnecessary corrections, and saves employees lost time sorting through emails and finding required information. At the same time, all company data is stored in the centralized online proofing software. For each project, it is always the last version/file that everyone involved can access – files are no longer stored in each individual’s personal email box. According to Dmytriy Kravchenko’s experience, it is a very important nuance in the graphic design industry, since “having no centralized channel to track all the progress brings to misunderstandings and pauses the working process”. With centralized storage, the data is secure filed and easy to find project by project.
60-80% of Total Turnaround Time Is Proofing Time
Proofing and managing revisions is a major challenge for any design company that relies on email as a key form of communication. This challenge is significant for the graphics industry because the relationship between the client and the agency involves so many people and business areas, all of which need access to a given file for approval, correction, or documentation. Each of these people will keep a copy of the file in their email box and may need to make corrections and send them to others for approval. Therefore, at least 60–80% of the total production time per project within graphics production – is spent on proofing. Moreover, when the client is not satisfied with initial artwork, this process might take even longer. Daniel May in one of our interviews says that sometimes says that when he offers up to 20 variations of initial logo design that might go through multiple iterations. Imagine how much time is consumed by proofing if the whole procedure is done via email – it is practically impossible to organize your workflow properly in such case.
Another interesting fact about email vs design proof software rivalry: LEGO moved from email proofing and collaboration to an online proofing workflow and managed to reduce their production time by up to 35% through this shift- and as we all know, time is money. As a result of their implementation of an online proofing solution, where their proofs are stored in a centralized online location, reviewers always looked at the latest new version, everyone involved can see each other’s comments, and the proofing process became transparent. All documentation and attachments were stored in a centralized message/comments section, not in each employee’s private email box. Reviewers no longer had to search, sort, and manage their email boxes to find information about their projects.
Another figure is that 29% of revisions in business documents are made due to miscommunications among employees. Considering that each version of the revisions takes almost the same time to create as the original, a lot of time is lost making corrections that may not necessarily be required.
These numbers and statistics show that there are very considerable differences between design proof and email proof software.
The Benefits of Online Proofing Software
- It provides a transparent cloud-based communication platform that allows access to all authorized parties and decreases the number of project-related emails for all involved.
- It removes all attachments from individual employees email box, securely centralizing them in the cloud, accessible to those with access, and organized project by project.
- The latest versions of files are accessible to everyone so that they can highlight and mark the changes desired, and see each other’s comments.
- Since the system is aware of the needs of different users, users get instant automatic notification when pages are ready for them to review, based on the agreed-upon routing proofing workflow.
- The system reduces the time spent by individual employees sorting emails, as well as the IT resources needed to store a huge amount of duplicate files.
- It also reduces production time, saving on labor and increasing customer satisfaction.
- Some online proofing solutions also offer advanced workflow features that can automate all the file handling and production, resulting in huge savings.
So, what is superior in your opinion: design proof or email proof software? I hope the answer is evident and this data and statistics have convinced you to take action at your company. This article shows that it is quite easy to release and reduce the 28% of the time your employees spend on emails so they can do other things. Furthermore, you can eliminate file attachments from your employees’ email boxes, to be stored project by project in an online proofing solution.