In my feature in MacWorld Magazine, “Stop Using Emails for Everything”, I barely scratched the surface of the real drawbacks a distributed company like LAC Group faces by using email as a primary tool for internal communication.
Once you peel back the clutter of unsolicited emails, a plethora of information comes into our business through this medium. While many of the hundreds of emails which enter the mailboxes of the few hundred employees of our company are from clients, prospects and partners, the vast majority are internal messages which would be useful to LAC Group as a whole.
It’s the new model of what I call “working publicly.”
I recently ran across this quote (although I don’t know who said it):
“… email is a knowledge cul-de-sac – a dead end for valuable ideas – a graveyard of potential. Email is where corporate IQ kicks back and has a brewski. Email also contributes to corporate amnesia; forgetfulness that costs businesses millions – perhaps billions in repeated mistakes every year.
Email is also wasteful; threads grow with unending off-topic discussions and CC lists expand, eroding productivity in all corners of the enterprise. Indeed, email is a problem but imagine trying to do business without it.
Even with the massive heat-loss from this antiquated and weak communications model, two things are clear; (i) no one has come up with a better approach that has challenged or displaced email, and (ii) it works pretty well in spite of its shortcomings.”
While we don’t have a great answer for external communications, the relatively new emergence of private communication platforms, such as Yammer, are taking on internal email communications.
Employees work in silos; this may be further exacerbated for those who work for companies like LAC Group, with clients spread across various work sites and locations. This means all mail sent and received from those employees remains in a silo too—not to mention the multiplication factor that happens on attachments, security and lack of staff interaction.
Today’s email technology, while effective for external communications, does not support internal collaborations and efforts within a master account, necessary for the preservation of data and knowledge. Organizing and sharing the influx of data sent to individual employees remains a manual function that must be handled by policy and procedure, rather than technology. Although individual email boxes are archived for reference, or emergency, essentially all the value is lost unless data is mined from their received and sent emails.
Addition email deficiencies include:
- Branding contradictions – Every company has at least one example of an email sent to a client that should never have been sent out, improperly branding/representing your business in a different, or unfavorable light.
- Mixed messages and wasted time and productivity – Partners and vendors often send emails to numerous employees, who in turn, all take time to respond. Not only can the company voice be lost, represented improperly, or worse, but, let’s face it, this methodology wastes time and productivity throughout the entire organization.
- Excess space on your servers – When a large attachment is included in an email distributed to numerous employees, and they all save and/or respond, this creates an exponential growth of that data, (1 MB PDF file x 20 responses = consumption of 20 MB).
- Risks and consequences of CC, blind and visible – While the use of BCC can provide some capability for sharing privately, this feature does little for internal morale and is still simply a work-around approach.
As an information and knowledge management executive, I appreciate the magnitude of change that occurred in our business communications with the advent of email. In fact, I still view email as not only necessary but the most revolutionary tool that we’ve come up with for communicating with clients. Yet I would be remiss if I didn’t look long and hard for solutions to the current deficiencies, gaps and dilemmas we experience each day with email, costing us valuable time and money.
Join me next week as I explore some of the new technology and tooling available to us, in order to find better faster ways for our team to work, to preserve employee contributions even after they have left the company, and most importantly to protect our knowledge base.
“In today’s environment, hoarding knowledge ultimately erodes your power. If you know something very important, the way to get power is by actually sharing it.”
– Joseph Badaracco