OBFA is a progressive architectural practice that provides professional architectural and project management services throughout Ireland. A contemporary practice with an emphasis on design and sustainability, OBFA operates in a BIM (Building Information Modelling) environment for the efficient delivery of all projects in conservation, education, healthcare, housing, leisure, retail and workplace environments.
Over the last 4 years, OBFA began to migrate from using Microsoft Outlook as purely an email client, to using it as an exchange server. Ciaran O'Brien, Practice Director at OBFA noted that this took a huge load off the firm in terms of managing their emails, and it began their move to the cloud. But, it did not allow OBFA to retrospectively map emails to their projects and practice management. As a result of this, OBFA relied quite heavily on public folders to manage this information.
Ciaran commented, "We never quite got to the stage of offloading things to PST files and I suppose that's coming from a long-standing opinion of trying to keep email where it belongs, which is within an email client (Outlook) and relying on that email client's search to find it. That works fine when you have two people and you don't have a huge number of jobs, but as we grew and we continue to grow, you're into the 10s of thousands of emails, and people aren't necessarily particularly disciplined."
"When someone is away on holidays, their inbox became partially inaccessible without being directly overwritten and accessed… We had natural concerns about taking email out of its natural environment and the potential loss of data but that isn't an issue. Knowing that we have a log and a process in place, certainly for me as a business owner gives me a lot of comfort in knowing that there is a process and a robust one for holding emails and storing them."
Prior to Mail Manager, the firm was quite lax in filing their emails away. No one in the business was filing consistently and as this wasn't an automated process for them, people were filing emails as they remembered. In Ciaran's case, he was only filing emails in the week before Christmas as an example. This was part of OBFA's problem, as Ciaran expressed, "It's much harder to file 20,000 emails at the end of the year than it is to file them as you go."
Getting peace of mind with Mail Manager
Once OBFA Architects recognised their need for Mail Manager, the implementation process was seamless. Their small practice size meant that they could implement the software across the whole business quickly, and Mail Manager assisted their team with onboarding and training staff. As a result, the team were quick to adopt Mail Manager's email filing functionality. One thing that Ciaran frequently mentioned he loves about the tool is that it sits quietly in the background, and doesn't impede his teams' ability to get on with their work.
Ciaran commented, "Email still is a baseline and legally acceptable method of giving instruction, taking instruction and having a record of a decision made. So, Mail Manager has really helped us and given us great comfort in terms of how our communications are held and accessed. We're a relatively small practice, and we are nothing like the size of some of the larger businesses in the UK but we still generate a huge amount of information with 10s of thousands of emails attached to individual jobs."
Benefits in the last 14-months
OBFA rolled out Mail Manager in November 2020 and felt the benefits straight off the bat. The firm finds it much easier to locate both new and old legacy emails, and they appreciate that other departments like practice management, HR and finance are accommodated based on their work structure.
Ciaran commented, "One of the things that has always annoyed me about email is the inability to extract useful information out of it. We regularly would need to pull sets of information from a project, for example, like a list of all the connected people or stakeholders to a project which might be 60-70 people. Mail Manager offers the ability to get that in a useful dataset with the social mapping tool."
He continued, "For us, the reliance on the robust filing of Mail Manager is what gives me comfort. Now I don't have to do this pre-Christmas filing, nor do I have to go desk-to-desk to make sure everybody else does, so I find that that's quite helpful."