Email has become the real company’s killer app. Easy to use, no teaching needed, quick delevery…really a great tool isn’t it? In fact if email can be good for some things it may also have a negative impact in your organization. Let’s see why and, possibly, find alternative solutions.
A real killer app
I think my introduction’s enough to prove it. In fact email is the minimal level of IT use, everyone now master it. It’s also a tool we use at home so we’re very familial with it. No need to learn, inexpensive, quick… that’s perfect! It’s so perfect that we often neglect its negative side, perharps because we don’t see it, perharps because we’re to lazy to try to communicate other ways, perharps because we don’t have alternative tools.
Beware of email abuses
You surely know risks due to email’s content: confidential information, personnal mails in a professional context… but we also have to consider risks due to the use of email by itself.
1Â°) I send, you receive
I send you an email, y receive it..and so you treat it. Considering that is a big mistake. Email’s recipient have his own job, his own planning and may be very busy at the time he receives the mail. Plus, I’m not the only person who mails him. And if I’m used to sending mails for any reason he may consider that there’s very few chances my mail contains something interesting…so he’ll read it later…if he has time.
If my mail is very important I can affect it a “very high priority”. But, as everybody does it, I’m not sure it will be very usefull. I also may call him to say “Hi, I’ve someting very important to ask you…it’s in the mail”. So no need to mail since you have to call.
2Â°) It’s just a mail
I’m often stunned when I see in wich ways emailing has made people neglect their communication. When you phone or write a letter you try to be polite, at least to be human. “Hello, how are you…how about…Ah! I’d like you to do something very important…”. Now you can find messages without any “hello”, neither any “thanks”…only a “do this”. Or only an attached document or a link to a document without any explaination. What am I suppose to do? Make a report, acknowledge I now know this information?
Consider also that the recipient receives at least..50…100…150 mails a day. Imagine you send this message “hello Bob, I’d like you to……please call me if you have any question or comment about it or if you’re too busy. Thanks. Jim.” Now, compare it to “please to that”. Sometimes there’s even no “please”.
Which task do you think the guy will make in priority? And would you be surprised if he was less motivated to treat the second mail, and if he would not be very pleasant when he will physically meet the sender of the second message?
3Â°) Wonderfull! I can send my message to a lot of people at the same time!
So you can be sure of two things. First you’ll bother a lot of people. Second you’ll forget people who would be interested…just because you don’t know them. What’s important is that the message is known by people who need it, not less and not more.
In these case, people ofter answer using the “reply to all” function…so that make hundred emails to read to known if you’re concerned or not.
As a conclusion, the stake of email abuses does not only impact information’s delivery but also productivity and interpersonnal relationship. So, what to do to be more efficient in information delevering?
Look at what internauts do
In the mid 90’s, when the use of email began to concern more and more people, a lot of people used to mail, nearly everyday, nearly everything they found interesting or fun to their friends. Some where happy with that, some recipients felt bothered of receiving sometimes three or four times the same joke in their mailbox.
Some tried to find a more efficient way to share things. They built internet sites. Their contacts who were interested in their publications could visit them when they wanted to, those who were not where not bothered anymore. Not only their publication was not intrusive anymore for their contact but they were able to meet a new audience: people they don’t know but who where interested in what they thought.
In fact, the question you have to ask yourself when you’re sending an email is: have I something to say to one or even two or three people or do I have an information I have to publish, without knowing who will be interested (even people I don’t know).
Considering my blogs, I’m not sure that my contacts would have been interested by receiving newsletters from me nearly every two days. But those who would have been interested can visit my blog et comment my posts. More, it made me “meet” an audience of people I don’t know but who are interested in the same things as I am. This is a good example of situations where email is useless and may efficiently be replaced by a personnal publishing tool. And what about doing the same in an organization? For example with a blog based intranet, with alerts on keywords you choose, an aggregating portal…in order people who read you are people who are concerned by what you write. Then, emails would be dedicated to tasks they’re the best at: saying something to one or two identified people.