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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Where Did That Report I Emailed Go?

Just because you send a report doesn’t mean your users receive it. Follow these tips to ensure timely and unimpeded delivery of information.

You are a diligent data warehouse professional and try to address user requests in a timely and complete manor. You usually deliver a requested report to remote users by email. However, sometimes that report fails to reach the recipient. With the goal of analytics to get the right data to the right user at the right time, a delivery failure can seriously impede timely decision making.

For Further Reading:

Developing a Comprehensive Report Inventory

Q&A with Jill Dyché: Racing ‘Round the Reporting Track

AI for BI: Better or Faster Decisions?

How many times has one of your users told you that they never received the report? Although this may be due to an invalid email address, it might also have been caused by software such as an overzealous spam filter associated with the recipient’s email provider and/or the recipient’s anti-virus security software or malware checker. The cause could even be traced to the sender’s or recipient’s ISP. An email client or ISP can block delivery because it suspects your report contains an embedded link to a known malicious website or if it finds certain words or phrases in the email text or subject line (especially if followed by numerous explanation points!!!). A filter may block delivery if prior recipients have marked your email as spam or if they have different inbound and outbound email servers.

Consequently, you should advise your users to check their spam folders and if your email appears there, ask them to mark it as “not spam.” In most cases this will move your report into their inbox and, perhaps more important, prevent your future emails from being incorrectly blocked. Simply reading an email in the spam folder and not marking it this way may cause your future emails to continue to be marked as spam.

Depending on the recipient’s email interface and spam filter, it may also be possible to avoid having your emails marked as spam by having the recipient add you to a whitelist of “safe senders” or entering your email address into their email contact list. With one recipient email domain in particular, I often send a follow-up message to a new recipient’s secondary email address, in a different email domain, asking them to verify that the original email landed in their inbox.

When sending emails to a new recipient you should try to obtain a secondary email address with a different domain name so you can ask them to verify receipt to their primary email’s inbox. You can also ask for a delivery or read receipt; but these may not necessarily inform where the email landed -- in the spam folder rather than the inbox. Depending on the number of new intended recipients, consider texting or calling them to check on report receipt; this will reinforce your image as a business partner who cares about meeting your constituency’s needs. It’s also a great opportunity to ask if they have any additional needs or if the report could be modified to better serve them.

Almost all of us receive spam or, even worse, phishing emails on a frequent (but random) basis. Though several companies offer email services that promise to block them, it is important that such services also allow you to receive valid emails as well. For example, I recently saw an advertisement for a service that claims to prevent more than “99.9% of spam and dangerous emails from ever reaching your inbox.” That may be impressive, but I could hypothetically offer a service guaranteed to block 100% of spam emails simply by blocking every email!

If you are looking to use an email service, don’t just investigate the percentage of malware emails it claims to successfully block. You also must examine the percentage of valid emails it erroneously classifies as spam or malware and mistakenly blocks as well.

We spend a great deal of effort hoping to satisfy our users business intelligence needs. Let’s also be proactive in checking that the reports we email to them get delivered to their inboxes.

About the Author

Michael A. Schiff is founder and principal analyst of MAS Strategies, which specializes in formulating effective data warehousing strategies. With more than four decades of industry experience as a developer, user, consultant, vendor, and industry analyst, Mike is an expert in developing, marketing, and implementing solutions that transform operational data into useful decision-enabling information.

His prior experience as an IT director and systems and programming manager provide him with a thorough understanding of the technical, business, and political issues that must be addressed for any successful implementation. With Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from MIT's Sloan School of Management and as a certified financial planner, Mike can address both the technical and financial aspects of data warehousing and business intelligence.

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