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You're Sending Too Much Email
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moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/5/2014 | 7:30:30 AM
Here are my choices
At work I have these choices for communication

- in person

- instant messaging

- instant video conference

- planned video/web conferencing

- phone

- email

- internal wiki

All options other than email and wiki require the other persons to be present. Some of the folks I need to involve in discussions do not come in before 9, some leave by 4, and many take extended or shifting lunch breaks, so between 11:30 and 1:30 any discussions are off the table. On any given day one of the coworkers that should be in a discussion is out or has a special assignment. Also, several folks are working remotely all the time in the armpits of nowhere having spotty connectivity that at times is not fast enough to support video conferencing.

So if we manage to find an hour where people are available we typically spend at least 10 minutes to figure out how to get the web based conferencing system to work (so much for "meetings made easy"). By that time a few discussions already started leaving the remotes at a disadvantage...assuming they will ever come online as there is also often problems with the VoIP phone system in the office that connects through leased lines to a central switchboard at the other end of the country.

Email always works and it is easy to use. You can submit a question to a few people and they respond within the day. Wiki is another option, but our internal wiki is not accessible to everyone in the company and buried behind a login page which makes using it a pain in the rear because often enough the login does not work properly.

People don't use these supposedly awesome collaboration 3.0 tools because they suck. Why do I always have to dial 20 digits and constantly turn on or off things for each meeting? What I want is to configure a meeting session once and then have a shortcut on the desktop that sets up the web session as well as dials the phone automatically and ask only one question: record session?

Another reason why folks keep using email is that except for IM it requires people to talk. We do not have nice offices with doors, just a bunch of cubes. Talking to someone is a major disruption to anyone around who is not involved in the discussion. Yes, we do have conference rooms, but they are often booked or folks just use them at will no matter if someone reserved the room or not.

Email is awesome. It is simple, it is fast, it is text based, it is easy to forward and archive, it is easy to search, it is easy to filter, and it is easy on the network bandwidth (unlike video streams). So until we get a tool that indeed makes meetings easy and we get offices where we can talk to someone at will without disturbing others nothing will change.

 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 4:19:46 PM
Re: If the boss moves off email, the team moves off email
@jastroff You're right, getting off email is a top down effort -- I probably didn't emphasize that enough in the column. People hate change, so the boss needs to mandate using socbiz tools. Draw a line in the sand. I applaud the tactic by OpenTable of warning salespeople against sending reports via email and to use Chatter instead.

Your story about your manager printing out emails makes me cringe!
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 4:17:45 PM
Re: If the boss moves off email, the team moves off email
Email is pretty much perfect in theory. It just lacks a good standard gating mechanism. I'd be really happy with my inbox if everyone who wanted to contact me had to be whitelisted or pass some anti-spam challenge.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 1:05:58 PM
Re: If the boss moves off email, the team moves off email
Oh the irony. In an effort to wean off email we create more emails about the activities of non-email communication tools! But I do think when a social tool like Yammer works well it becomes part of peoples' work day enough that email alerts are superfluous.

However email is still the place we check most often so sending alerts there for any kind of activity makes sense. I guess it's up to the user to figure out which email alerts are redundant and decrease their frequency or shut em off.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:45:06 AM
Re: If the boss moves off email, the team moves off email
Then there are the collaboration systems that increase your email input. I can think of three collaboration or project management systems I use, meant to replace email for work requests or announcements, that generate automated alerts of status changes or new posts in my email system. Part of the answer is managing those alerts -- I've dialed one back through settings so it's much better. But some of those email alerts are essential, so I don't have to monitor more than one channel. So I'm not ready to sever those from my email, which remains my central communication console.    
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:33:47 AM
Re: If the boss moves off email, the team moves off email
Amen Dave. The OpenTable example is a good argument for reducing email among work teams. I agree that a social collaboration stream at work is yet another comunication channel to manage, and we all have enough to manage. But it's worth it if it curbs the email avalanche, with an upside of improved teamwork/productivity. But like most things it takes a boss to say, "No more emailing of reports. We're using this social tool now. Here's the plan."
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:12:53 AM
Re: Moving on
Yep, email is good for keeping people at arm's length and no-rush communication, both of which are necessary. So there will always be a place for email. But I've seen the dangers of it becoming the only tool in your toolbox, especially among spread out internal teams. Phone and IM are a better line to individuals and social collaboration tools are a better line to group work. As for the outside world, email is still king. But we need to thin the herd (and the inbox!).
David F. Carr
IW Pick
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 10:55:02 AM
If the boss moves off email, the team moves off email
When I was researchng my Social Collaboration for Dummies book, the most successful example of a socbiz tool replacing email came from OpenTable. The sales manager there told his staff he didn't want to see reports from the field showing up in his email inbox; he wanted to see them in Chatter instead so the whole sales team could see them and learn from them.

Of course, even the members of that team had to switch to email whenever they needed to communicate outside of the organization. That's one of the hurdles to adopting social collaboration tools - instead of one stream of messages, you have to manage two. Really more than two if you count your public social media, your voicemail, text messages, and so on.

So if you're going to cram another communication channel into people's work lives, you need to show them how it is different and how that difference can be valuable. If it's a better way of getting the boss's attention and connecting with your peers, then suddenly it makes all the sense in the world.


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