Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting your messages heard

For this inaugural week’s discussion, I thought it fitting to focus on something that has significant business impact everywhere: Getting your email messages delivered. Let’s face it; in today’s market, message delivery issues can cause significant business pain regardless of what business you are in. This is true to the point that one CIO that I worked for valued the uptime of their mail system beyond everything else in their environment, including the SAP system that allowed them to produce and deliver product. While this may seem extreme, he had this view because email is now pretty much the de facto delivery method for most business documents: contracts, change-orders, deliverables for some organizations, and even most sales leads start as emails. When you look at it that way, one can quickly see how message non-delivery has the potential of being perceived by customers as stalling techniques for your deliverables or even worse a lack of professionalism due to the lack of contact.

During this week’s discussions, I am going to be focusing on Microsoft Exchange-based messaging systems, but the vast majority of these items apply regardless of the messaging system you have; only the implementation details will differ.

Exchange is a very powerful collaboration tool that for the most part is simple to get setup inside an organization. While Microsoft has made the task of setting up a public mail connector rather simple with Exchange, they have not provided the same level of guidance to making sure that all of the supporting steps to make sure the messages sent via the mail system are given the best chance of successful delivery. This is because the setup wizard focuses almost exclusively on the setup of the internally facing portions of the system. There is very little validation of the public Internet environment into which the Exchange organization is supposed to function.

A few simple techniques and settings in your firewall and public DNS can make or break how reliable message delivery will be for your organization long-term. This week will focus on these tasks. While it may seem naive to think that a few changes that amount to only a couple hours work in most organizations can make such a huge impact, it was a lack of attention on these items that caused most message non-delivery problems from partners to my last organization.

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