No Email Initiatives – In the Trough of Dissilusionment and Obsolete Before Plateau

No Email Initiatives are an approach taken by a number of organisations to improve communication be eliminating email. In many organisations email is used as if it were the only communication tool and applied to every problem even when there are far better ways of communicating. Rather than getting people to change the way they use email some organisations have decided that elimination is the only answer.

Proponents of this approach exist, some examples:

  • Luis Suarez has lived outside his inbox for many years now. He’s managed to dramatically reduce the amount of email he received and spent much more time utilising the value of social software in his time at IBM. Luis is no longer working at IBM, but is still a huge proponent of living outside the inbox.
  • Atos launched a zero email initiative in 2011 and received much press coverage because of it: “Its aim is to transform towards a social, collaborative enterprise where we share knowledge and find experts easily in order to respond to clients’ needs quickly and efficiently, delivering tangible business results.”

Reading the latest Gartner Hype Cycle for Unified Communications recently I was intrigued to note that they place No Email Initiatives in the Trough of Disillusionment and in the category Obsolete Before Plateau. Reading through the details they estimate that the Market Penetration will be Less than 1% of target audience. Talk about kicking an idea when it’s down!

I used to have a manager who called email BATS – Blame Allocation and Transfer System. Anyone who’s used email in a corporate setting can relate to that definition.

Jack Madden recently proposed banning attachments as an alternative approach with enterprise file sync and share (FSS) and collaborative document editing being a better way of collaborating. He does this whilst acknowledging that there is no escaping email.

The value and the challenge of email is that it is universal. It’s rarely the best answer, but it’s regularly the easiest answer. The alternatives are nowhere near as universal. Neither Twitter or Facebook; nor Google Drive, Office 365 or Dropbox; not even Skype, Lync or WhatsApp are as ubiquitous. With one piece of information you can send someone an email and be pretty confident that they will receive it; add a file and your level of confidence will remain high.

Email is embedded into so many processes; when was the last time you ordered something on-line and didn’t receive the receipt in your email?

To be clear, Gartner isn’t saying that organisations shouldn’t try to radically change the way that people work and to dramatically cut the amount of email but they are saying:

Given the ubiquity of internal email communications in businesses today, elimination of it would truly have a transformational effect, although we believe that few organizations will (or even should) actually achieve it.

The point being that it’s the transformation that organisations should be looking to, not the elimination of email. Organisations need to adopt new ways of collaborating and the result will be a drop in email. It is my belief that organisations that don’t will be overtaken by those that do.

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