Reduce Email & Leverage Social-Sharing for Productivity

ArrrrghThere is a problem with email in business, and the problem is email.

Over the two decades that email has been a staple of business communication the demands put on it have increased, as has the time-drain and lost productivity it causes. Email is being extended beyond its capabilities.

Now that weeding through “spam” is no longer the issue it was, legitimate email is becoming its own form of spam – endless one-line responses that read like tweets, ignored group emails to no-one in particular, and the dreaded “I lost that attachment” request (which simply means “I missed that email and don’t want to look for it, but I’ll ask you to take your time and send it again.”) The problem has grown so pervasive that a slew of products have come on the market to “help people manage email”, but those product don’t reduce the core problems of email proliferation.

In addition email not only steals time from an organization, it can steal knowledge, as email tends to create personal information repositories instead of centralized ones.

In one bold response to these issues the CEO of Atos Global, a multi-billion dollar IT services firm, mandated that there would be no internal emails among his 74,000 employees – instead rolling out a company-wide custom platform to make internal communications more efficient. But not every organization has those resources. In lieu of such custom systems some organizations (or at least their employees) will instead cobble together a patchwork of available services – online file repositories like DropBox, shared calendars and documents on Google, along with to-do list and project management software. When not blocked by corporate firewall, some will even incorporate social media platforms like Twitter and Face- book for business interaction – choosing the convenience of the familiar platform over security and privacy concerns.

Michael Chui of the McKinsey Global Institute says that workers spend an average of 13 hours per week sending and receiving email and 20% of their time trying to find valuable information trapped in email inboxes, which he calls the “dark matter of the enterprise."

According to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) many companies use social technologies to reach consumers and gather insights for product development, marketing, and customer service, but they note that twice as much potential value lies in using those social protocols to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within their enterprises. MGI’s estimates suggest that companies using these technologies “can raise the productivity of interaction workers–high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals–by 20 to 25 percent.” 

Making Business Social?

“Enterprise Social Networks” like Yammer or Chatter attempt to clone platforms like Facebook while limiting interaction to individuals within an organization, but while some have found value in these as an internal chat room and file repository, they tend to lack the focus on initiatives to get business done. People want to introduce tools into their organization to improve efficiency, but either the tools are a bolt-on addition to processes already in place – or the tool becomes so complex that it’s a burden for the users to learn to use effectively – requiring a concerted effort and consistent mind-set to be adopted throughout the organization (think Sharepoint).

For a solution to be easy-to-adopt and valuable to an organization it must put business concerns first and still hit the sweet-spot between social engagement, communication, collaboration and project management.

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