Schlagwort-Archive: Email

Email still reigns

This is the last article about Oscar Berg’s blog posts so far. Today I want to write about his arising question “How do we end the reign of internal emails?”. So far I wrote about the “opt-in culture”, statistics about the email usage and interesting approaches about to stop pure email communication and, very important, introductions of alternatives.

Out of Oscar’s experience each of his customer suffers from problems with internal emails. All the statements he mentioned before in his former articles occurred there, it is ‘badly executed communication’. Also Michael Arrington wrote that ‘the problems with email are getting worse’. Employees do not have the time to read carefully and respond in an adequate time anymore.

A lot of people are aware of the problem, but not so much has been done so far. The big issue is how companies implement social collaboration platforms. A lot of them put the platform in place and leave the people by themselves, in believe everything will come how it should come. For most of the employees it is “just” another tool – the companies fail with a fundamental change of the way people – managers and employees – are communicating with each other. Also in my environment I can see that people discuss about using email today and in future. The opinions are very ambiguous and still quite extreme, abolishment vs. retention.

I cannot go along with Oscar’s opinion that email is a perfect tool for managers. Even managers have to learn to work with social tools, maybe it is more difficult for them.

We are still left behind with an open question “How do we end the reign of internal email?”. That means that we could not take most of the people on the journey behind email, the “critical mass” has not reached yet. However, in my view we are just a view steps away to get the ball rolling.

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Leave Email behind

In my third article about four blog posts from Oscar Berg we will see some approaches to stop pure email communication and introduce alternatives. In my first article I wrote about Oscar’s introduction of the “opt-in culture”. The second article covered a lot of very interesting statistics about the email usage. Today I want to write about Oscar’s follow up “Moving Beyond Email”.


When organizations recognize to move with their communication ahead they should do four things immediately.

1. Put an end to the information bombardment

With our current email system we have no opportunity “to opt-out for the recipient”. We depend on the sender for good and for evil. “Social technologies like micro-blogging” can lead us “to an opt-in culture and put an end to the information bombardment”.

2 . Avoid accidental information leakages

To avoid information leakages information should “posted on a blog, wiki or social networking platform instead”. Just people with sufficient credentials can get the information. The possibility that the wrong person gets that information is drastically reduced.

3. Clean up the conversation mess

As long there is a one-way conversation like one-to-one or one-to-many recipients email works quite well. As soon as it comes to a many-to-many conversation the effectively of email drops down radically. “Most social tools are designed for many-to-many conversations”. Each message just exists once and conversations are held together in one thread. The “opt-in” or “pull” mechanism allows the reader to get all the required information without being bombarded.

4. Set information free

Billions of business information are stored in inboxes. Unable to get from the person who need it, almost undiscoverable even for the owner. Information in blogs, wiki and social platforms are accessible and even more important searchable. To store all the data more central has the side effect that the costs for information management decreases.

Use emails just for it is suited for and look for alternatives for the rest of your communication. Even a lot of companies are aware of it a lot of them will struggle achieving tangible business results. According to Gartner 80% of social business efforts will not achieve benefits through 2015. Why?

With social tools we alter our communication style. We need time to learn, we need time to experiment, to learn what works and what does not work. It tooks for “virtually all new communication technologies” a lot of time to figure out their business use and their universal acceptance. People have to change their mindset and habits, and they make failures. To introduce new social technologies it comes to a cultural change in working together and trust each other. It works just with an open culture that accepts failures.

To get there we should “not drop a new platform on people from the sky”. “We have to be more like social scientists” not technologist. Our approach should be “step-by-step, learn from failures and adjust our strategies when necessary”.

My last article about Oscar’s blog posts will come soon, stay tuned.

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Break the Email Habit

In my first article about stopping the email communication I wrote about what are the problems working with email. Oscar Berg introduced an “opt-in culture” to leave the “occupational spam culture”. Today I want to write about Oscar’s article “Time to Break the Habit of Internal Email”.

In this article Oscar show some interesting statistics how employees uses emails and how much time they spend for email related tasks. Statistics show that “an average corporate employee spends around 25-30 percent of his workday on email related tasks”. We just spend 14 percent on communication and collaboration, though. These two figures are not meaningful for themselves, let us have a closer look what we are doing with emails.

A large portion of time is simply spend on “organizing, archiving and deleting emails”. Time that is not productive at all, it is just used for managing our inbox. More statistics show that about “7 percent of our received emails are spam”, another “11 percent are non-work related”, and 63 percent are used for inter employee communication. That is now the catch we can continue to look on.

The time we spend for managing and working with email itself is also not the big issue “if we did it in one chunk”. Actually I try working with emails just twice a day when I am very busy. In the morning I have a look on these and right after my lunch break. I switched off all disturbances like pop-up windows, sounds and other possibilities to show me an incoming email. I decide when I read the email. It works most of the time. However, most of the people do not work like this. They are stressed and overwhelmed from the email flood and they do not recognized that is due to their working style and how they handle emails. Their curiosity and the amount of interruptions and refocusing on their email work again make people feel stressed. “An average manager typically get interrupted every 8 minutes.”

Oscar asks the question “Why have we arrived at this situation?” now. The answer is simple and well-known: It works as designed. What does it mean? Emails were designed for an one-to-one communication first. Companies in the late 70th and early 80th were different to nowadays. “Work was not mostly collaborative, one-to-one and not geographically distributed”. With the advent of the “Reply all” feature the email flood and many-to-many communication could begin.

Emails got convenient and widespread. Over the years “our brains got wired to emails”. The latter makes it so difficult to change our behavior. There are well-trod trails in our brain and email is our first choice. It needs a strong impulse, a radical approach now to establish different trails and different tools, side-by-side to emails. For this reason I think that the demand to vanish emails and the following discussion is necessary. We will see how it continues in future.

I will write about another 2 articles from Oscar about the email issue soon. Stay tuned.

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Discussions about the email habit

There is a lot of talking and writing to stop email communication in a company. Atos announced in 2011 to dismiss emails within 2 years. It looks like that they are on a good way to achieve their plan. But there are also a lot of blog post that are not so radical as Atos‘ plan.

I do not want to judge it and say it is good or bad, my perception of this topic is that the discussions are about a cultural change and how to combine all the available tools and use them for their best purpose, it is a moderate change. It is a topic about the people, change management and about technology and its usage.

When e-mail was invented (1971) and spread into the world it was the time for it. But time has not stopped and now there is a migration to another form of working together and using different tools different to e-mails. The challenge is to combine the new and the old. The push-technology e-mail with the pull-technology social media. To find the connections and gates between. It is a challenge but I am confident we will gradually achieve it.

Recently I have found some very interesting articles from Oscar Berg. Oscar wrote in his blog “The Content Economy” and also in cmswire. His first article I want to mention is “Email is the biggest productivity drain for knowledge workers”.

In his article he shows the difference between a push system and pull system or as he calls it “occupational spam culture” and “opt-in culture”. What are the problems when dealing with e-mails. Here is a short list:

  • Information are hidden in the participants’ inboxes
  • Information cannot be accessed from outside communicators
  • Information are duplicates from themselves, consuming disk space
  • Information need coordinating activities from all the people who are involved in the communication, really time-consuming

The last point is the biggest burden for pure e-mail communication. The receiver is responsible for the structure to find the information at a later point in time. And when the receiver is not interested in the kind of conversation in his inbox there is no way to opt-out the conversation. This situation Oscar calls “occupational spam culture”.

The solution out of the “spam” is an opt-in culture. People decide themselves where they want to participate, where they want to contribute content and as a sender how to organize the information. The advantages are highly visibly, the receiver does not need to care about the structure, “a huge amount of waste can be eliminated and people can use the time and energy for value-adding activities”.

One example of this mode of operation is a team blog. Simple, isn’t it? All team members share their input in that blog, team members add their comments to the articles, all members (at least) can read it and can participate when they want.

There is also a solution for people who cannot get away from their e-mail habit. They can stay with it! What? Yes, they can stay with it, get e-mail notifications out of the blog, can see the new information from all. But where is the catch? Well, the catch is that someone has to copy the information out from the e-mails into the blog to contribute this content to everyone. Maybe that is also a way to get the more skeptical people more confident in the new medias. To see that nothing harm them when they change their working style.

Oscar has written another 3 articles I will mention here soon, stay tuned.

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Pull in lieu of Push

Recently there was an interesting article in Harvard Business Review BlogHow to Break Free from Email Jail„. The developed idea in the article is information-„pull“ instead of information-„push“.

Today everyone can write an email to everybody anytime whether they need it or not. A lot of people set up their e-mail client to show an incoming e-mail immediately. With a simple window, with a toast notification and sometimes with a vociferous sound. At the end of the day they complain about the amount of e-mails they got, and they complain about the information overflow too. In this case they are the slave of their inbox, they become an e-mail assembly line worker. Nothing against an assembly line, but it has nothing to do with handling e-mails.

Maybe one or the other will argue, yes, of course e-mail works like that. In this case you should imagine that e-mails do not exist anymore, and you get all this information you usually get by e-mail printed and thrown on your desk. An outcry, no, that does not work, no. Well, now we start thinking about how it can work differently.

It is a simple step to stop all these distractions, and in my point of view fully unnecessary settings. You just handle your e-mail when you want to do. In this case you create a pseudo e-mail pull system. Also I have to get released from my supervision constraints. The benefit is a more self-determined working style.

However, the aim to get less e-mails has not been reached yet. As a repetition, the first step was a survey of your own e-mail account. In my self experiment I radically reduced my newsletters first. Until this point it was easy, the difficult part will come after, how to manage to source information out of your e-mail inbox, and in addition how to communicate with your colleagues out of your e-mail inbox.

For the time being I will remain with the presented article. First I want to carry on to explain what a pull system is and which characteristics it has.

You indicate everything as a pull system if the user self determine when he wants to read and handle the information he got. Pull system are e.g. RSS readers, blogs, Wikipedia’s or Dropbox. Thus all well-known applications and functions. However, with the knowledge to know what a pull system is, you have not managed for a long time yet to break away from your inbox. Because know a new challenge starts namely all your information are again spread over many systems and additionally without any connections. As a reference, for this I have found an article in Blue Blog (de).

The skill you need is to work with it now. Initially you should know what is the system able to do, what it is suitable for and for what it is not. With this knowledge and maybe some communication rules we can start to connect all the programs and systems, or just use them for special tasks, so that the just straightened e-mail box chaos will not start at an other place again.

Maybe we do not need a rule, maybe a best practise approach is better that bring us further. Here I want to stop and ask my readers, which approach have you chosen to work with this amount of pull applications? Which one is established, which one was exposed to be too complex?

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Digitalnaiv über die Zeit nach dem Emailpostfach nachzudenken

Toller Artikel von Stefan Pfeiffer in seinem Blog digitalnaiv über „Es ist Zeit über den E-Mail-Posteingang hinaus zu denken„. Dies werde ich einmal, soweit es eben geht, versuchen umzusetzen, mal sehen was passiert.

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