3 Reasons why Internal Email can be a costly productivity pirate

I have said it many times before – and in the light of current news from various organisations, including Atos , who has already reduced the number of internal emails by 20 percent in six months, as well as recent experiences direct from some of my clients – it needs to be said again.

Most businesses need to review and change their current use of internal emails to manage workflows, workloads and the competing priorities their people are asked to manage on a daily basis.

Here are 3 reasons why internal email can be a costly drain on team and individual productivity within any business:

Reason 1: Internal email is a very poor workload management tool

Email, used well is a good communication component of an overall workload management process. It is not, however, a good workload management tool – no matter how people try to push it into that domain.

The ruthless reality for most people though is that  Email is mostly misused and abused!

Think about it for a moment. With Email:-

  1. The 80/20 Rule is ruthless – In larger organisations especially – 80% of emails are generated within the organisation and only 20% of them are relevant to the critical results of the day.
  2. Everyone has their own closed silo of communication and information, filed in their own particular hierarchical structure.
  3. Everyone decides for themselves who needs to be in the loop and who is best to get a particular message to
  4. Everyone decides for themselves who to send a message ‘TO’, who will get a ‘CC’ and the ‘BCC’.
  5. Everyone decides for themselves why they will use ‘CC’ and ‘BCC’, sometimes for ‘political’ and ‘escalation’ reasons that undermine teamworking
  6. Everyone gets fed up with the tsunami of emails they receive, there is universal hatred of ‘Reply all’ and pointless ‘Distribution list’ emails that people can’t disconnect from because the list controller is not easily identifiable within the organisation …………………………

I could go on … and in 12 years of running this business, believe me …. I could go on with example after example of real people experiencing genuine pain and frustration at the email culture and conditioning that has been built up within their business, whether by design or neglect in the face of other pressing commercial issues.

Only last Friday I tweeted about a cri de cour from a senior manager in a great job within an industry leading multi-billion dollar business….

‘Email seems to be becoming work rather than a tool for it.  Not having read an email within an hour of it arriving is increasingly frowned upon.  A trend that makes it increasing hard to do the work and not just reply to emails.  A trend that the mobile email platform has exaggerated, a reply now constitutes completion of a request.’

That’s why I consider it really important, when working with clients on time, priority and workload management training programmes, to incorporate modules around recreating a more resourceful culture and expectation management system around how they ‘Do Emails’. And it always gets amazing results – even within very large organisations.

It is possible to tame the email beast. It is possible to put an end to Inbox slavery and turn it into Inbox mastery. If it were not proven to be possible my clients would not continue to book us year after year.

I’m not stating this to big myself up. I’m stating it to encourage you to take heed of Confucius ‘It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness’  and of Mahatma Gandhi ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’

Reason 2: Current collaboration tools beat internal emails hands-down for productivity

Internal emails are as redundant as the telex machine for priority workload management
You wouldn’t expect me to get too soft and fluffy here, so I’m not going to talk about ‘Social’ …Ooops, I just have.
let’s focus on Collaboration built upon social-like platforms.

There is so much good work being done in this field that I believe that internal emails will increasingly be seen as about as relevant to the transaction of business as the use of a telex machine is. Remember those?

Two platforms that we are currently considering for our team of six people who rarely sit in the same office at the same time but none-the-less have to be continuously in contact, are:

The VMWare platform: SocialCast.

We are currently working with vmware’s Social Cast platform live in the business and all 6 of us find it very intuitive, simple to use and very useful. I plan to write a full post on our direct experience shortly.

IBM Connections

I have seen IBM Connections demos and sat in on some webcasts about this platform and it does look incredibly powerful and rich. I also know some business associates who use it within their businesses and advocate it.

Microsoft Communicator and Lync 2010

Microsoft are also very busy in this space. Their Communicator product is well known and the new 2010 version of their collaboration platform Lync looks great from the outside, especially as it will work seamlessly with SharePoint and Outlook. We don’t know yet how Lync will work with the Macs and iPhones that some of us use, so this is one to trial later.

So, you see, internal email is more challenged than ever … and will eventually succumb to the more open, real-time collaboration options being developed and refined right here right now.

Reason 3: Younger, newer workers are increasingly seeing Email as archaic

Young people are no longer weaned on internet email accounts.

Most of them communicate on Social platforms like Facebook and through Text / IM in various forms.

Even at college and university, the communication platform of choice is increasingly ‘Social’ in structure if not in actual usage.

There is plenty of evidence recording the decline in use of  internet mail accounts by these leaders of the future, of which this research behind the chart on the right is only one that I am currently aware of.

This chart comes from ComScore Media Metrix

So, there you have it:

  1. Internal email is rarely managed well in most organisations. It can be improved – especially with our help, as our clients advocate day in-day out
  2. There are options to explore – and again – we can help your people make the change.

Let me know your thoughts, either here in the comment section, on twitter or by email. Oh, and if you want an old fashioned chat just call me

 

3 Comments

  1. Robbie Henderson December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Richard, the click of choice thing is critical to making this work. Too many tools already.

  2. Richard Maybury December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks Laura, especially for remembering the importance of making any new collaboration platform ‘The Click Of Choice’. I will be emphasising this in another post on making this stuff work.

    It is so important to get this right. Employees can and do suffer tool and process fatigue and unless the ‘new’ collaboration platform is correctly positioned, unless it is so simple and so rewarding to use and unless the players can see real – almost immediate – benefits in using it – the platform (no matter how cool it looks) will have a hard job replacing the previous behavious – silos of knowledge, shared selectively within the tsunami of email graffiti

  3. Laura December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    totally agree with you on this Richard.
    The growth in collaboration tools – both in the number of providers and the richness of the experience available now, makes this approach to internal communications much more compelling.

    Your mantra of making the collaboration platform ‘The Click Of Choice’ continues to resonate with me. If the business fails to make it ‘The Click Of Choice’ it cannot blame the staff for retaining the communication channels that they managed to make work well for them before the roll-out. And we all know where that leads to…. right back to silo thinking eventually

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