E-mails are THE single most important piece of technology that has shaped the way we communicate. And yet, everybody hates it and tries to get rid of it. Some companies are championing the use of social networks instead of e-mails for internal communications. Others are more extreme and try to completely abolish them, prohibiting their employees to send internal emails. Does that make any sense?
In a word: No.
So, let me show you three good reasons why it is unlikely that we are going to abolish e-mails soon:
1. There Is No Real Alternative
Managers are thinking about replacing e-mail communication with company social networks. Which is kind of meaningful, up to a certain extent. Sure, there are plenty of web-based technologies that facilitate the distribution of information: wikis, forums, social networks. The main difference is that these services do not currently notify their users of newly added content. The advocates’ main argument for the abolishment: e-mails equal waste of time, hence they need to be abolished. From this it follows that less e-mail, more productivity (ancient wisdom).
There is only one fallacy: people ‘waste time’ using other communication media, too. Specially when it comes to social networks. So what? Communication is the very root of productivity. If we mutilate that and make it a mere business decision. We could just as well place a limit on the amount of minutes we are allowed to talk to our office colleagues per day.
Oh, and think about how LinkedIn and Facebook and all the other services notify you about something new, relevant only to you? That’s right: by sending you an e-mail.
2. “Zero E-mail” Is Just Marketing Guff
Remember the when Thierry Breton, CEO of the IT service company Atos announced a “Zero-E-mail” policy in 2011? Completely abolishing all (internal) e-mail communication, that is. Breton estimated his managers spend up to 20 hours a week just dealing with e-mails. His plans are to completely abolish internal e-mails until 2014. Instead, his company will internally use an enterprise social software called blueKiwi. Which Atos just happens to be selling. What a coincidence!
Wait, can you smell that, too? Isn’t that the smell of “PR stunt”?
3. A Notification Is a Notification. Period.
Point being: Yes, we can grab all of our information on (company) social networks, fancy intranets. But all these buzzwords really mean is ‘websites’. We have to visit websites to grab our information, proactively. Yikes.
Despite the fact this takes time, too (and, bluntly speaking, is agonizingly boring): from time to time, we need to be notified, either by email, SMS, IM message – doesn’t matter which way. It also doesn’t matter how this pops up (inbox, wall or as a post-it on our monitor) – it will grab our attention. It will distract us. It will take some time.
The point is: not all information can be obtained proactively. Notifications, on the other hand, do disturb. Notifications do consume time. Responding to them does consume time. Period.
Maybe e-mails are outdated and old and time consuming. And yes, reducing e-mail traffic makes a lot of sense. It is certainly possible that we will see a significant reduction which is good. Seriously.
It’ just… one thought keeps crossing my mind:
When there are no more e-mails to be read and written, what the heck will all the managers do all day long?
(Image Copyright: Brian Tracy)