IBM Global Services has this week secured a nine-year deal valued at approximately 7m euros ($9m) to provide email management services to Spanish financial services giant Banco Sabadell.
Under the terms of the deal, IBM will manage Banco Sabadell's email systems and applications, covering some 10,000 employees. The contract follows on from the 107m-euro ($140m) agreement announced last year under which IBM manages the bank's IT infrastructure, including security and data processing services.
This latest contract win aside, however, IBM is one of many IT services vendors that believe companies are either ignoring or underestimating the importance of secure and responsive email management.
Derek Kay, director of IBM's e-business hosting services operation, told ComputerWire that the client community is polarized on the subject of email. There are a number of companies that have their head in the sand on the issue and don't understand the importance of email, said Kay. At the same time, there are others who are aware of the need to store data transmitted via email, but have no real strategy of how best to do that. As a result, they end up keeping absolutely everything.
If anything is guaranteed to wake up senior executives to the importance of email management, it is the threat of expensive litigation. The proliferation of email as a mode of business communication has opened up a number of new legal risks and, with email now just as admissible in court as other, more formal, documents, the potential penalties for non-compliance are high. In May 2005, for example, investment bank Morgan Stanley was ordered to pay a total of $1.45bn in damages to a Florida financier for alleged fraud. The ruling resulted in part from Morgan Stanley's inability to produce email evidence on request.
Clearly the headlines about legal issues are worrying people, said Kay. He said the majority of the cases that have arisen to date focus on the retrieval of information, meaning that clients have to be able to selectively search both email and instant messaging data to find the relevant data.
There are signs that the message is getting through and that companies are developing a greater appreciation of the importance of email. According to EDS, spending on email archive services and technologies is expected to hit close to $1.6bn by 2007, with yearly growth rates forecast to top 30%.
It's not just legal issues that are driving this increase in demand. UK IT services vendor Netstore says that email has outgrown its traditional management, with the advent of new operating systems and hardware. It is a view also held by Kay.
There has been a clear move toward the use of browsers and away from dedicated client servers as a means of accessing email, Kay said. There is also now a proliferation of devices that can be used to send and receive messages, from wireless PDAs to mobile phones to Blackberries, and this raises a number of new questions about security.
These are issues which many companies would prefer not to think about, which is why they are increasingly willing to hand over control of their systems to a third-party vendor. For most of our customers, email isn't core to what they're trying to achieve, said Kay. It's simply part of the plumbing, which makes it easier to hand over to someone else. He said another major selling point for email management is that it requires very little day-to-day management: Once you've got it set up properly, it shouldn't cause you to lose any sleep, he said.