is Email a necessary or Unnecessary evil? (interview with IBM’s Luis Suarez)

email - luis suarez

I have been a long time fan of Luis Suarez whom I was supposed to meet at the Enterprise 2.0 summit except that my clients decided otherwise. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to Luis and send him, ironically, my questions via email.

That’s my point precisely. Email is one of those necessary evils. A system which is broken but difficult to break away from. At least, this is my perception. I have managed, over the years, to cut through the clutter… yet, I have never managed to do away with email completely.

Even worse, whenever I spread the good news that one doesn’t have to use email and that other solutions exist, there is always at least one person in the room who takes it personally and gets very very cross. It happened to me again last Monday after a lecture at HEC, while we were all having lunch. There was only one person around the table who seemed very angry with me but it got me thinking. Why would people be so in love with e-mail. Is it because this is the only online system which is close enough to the old world and mimics – vaguely – traditional letter writing?

Well, I don’t know. So I turned to Suarez instead, a man who is supposed to have turned off his mail reader completely … except for my questions. Good man!

photo by Londonbloggers

Doing away with email: Interview with Luis Suarez

1. You have been heralded as a no-email evangelist. How and why did you decide to do that?

I initially started this journey of Life Without eMail over six years ago (On February 2008) and, mainly, for three different reasons:

1. Over the course of time you realise that e-mail is not really a good collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. Quite the opposite. It’s today’s productivity killer, not necessarily because of the system itself, but more than anything else because of how we have abused it over the course of time resulting in all sorts of political games, bullying, managing up (or down), and overall unnecessary stress seeing how plenty of people keep using it as a way to protect and hoard their knowledge vs. helping one another.

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2. The second reason why I stopped using e-mail was because over the course of the last few years I have been having hundreds, if not thousands, of interactions with younger generations of knowledge workers, whether they are working already or before entering the workplace, and all along I realised that we were using all sorts of various different collaboration tools, except e-mail and we got the job done, just as effectively, so I thought if they could pull it off together, why couldn’t we, right?

3. The last reason as to why I started this movement over six years ago was essentially to demonstrate, as a social business evangelist, that there is a work life without e-mail. That, nowadays, we do have more appropriate and relevant collaborative and knowledge sharing tools that help us get our jobs done much more efficiently and effectively. Time and time again, plenty of people came to me indicating, as a show stopper, that they couldn’t do social networking at work because they just didn’t have the time and when asking additional questions about why that is happening I realised how they were all saying a large chunk of today’s interactions are happening through e-mail as a time sink, which is why I decided to challenge the status quo of e-mail in the enterprise and, instead, prove and demonstrate, day in day out, that you can eventually have a very productive work life using social technologies versus just e-mail.

2. Wired pointed out that you had reduced email volume by 98%, does that mean that now you only receive 2 million emails a year?

Well, before I started this movement of Life Without eMail I used to get about 30 to 40 e-mails per day. Over the course of the years, that amount has gone down substantially till it reached that 98% of e-mail reduction to the point where I was getting two e-mails per day a couple of years back, averaging about 15 per week, which, I guess, is not too bad after all. The interesting part is that I have not reduced my interactions with others though, quite the opposite, they have increased a great deal, so the main difference is that the vast majority of those conversations are now happening through open, public social networking tools allowing for knowledge to flow freely helping people make better decisions with that information.

3. Honestly, who can really get rid of email. I can’t imagine telling my clients I don’t want to communicate with them in that way?!

You would be surprised about the large amount of people (Customers as well!) who are most willing to reduce their e-mail Inboxes in order to collaborate and share the knowledge across much more openly and transparently through social technologies. It’s that inertia that’s killing us, that is, the one where we don’t challenge the status quo and we all keep resorting to e-mail because “Everyone uses it, so why change?” Well, exactly because of that!

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Enterprise Social Networks: Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris Feb 10-14

enterprise social networksA few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Bjön Negelmann, the creator and organiser of the enterprise 2.0 summit which is due to take place in Paris on the 10 – 12 February 2014. This event is the unmissable conference on the subject of enterprise social networks and will not only be the chance for the audience (100 – 200 professionals from the ESN market and clients) to listen to some of the most inspiring speakers on the subject, but also to interact with each other in some very exciting workshop sessions. Here are in a few bullet points, the most important takeaways from Bjorn’s interview:

enterprise social networks

 

Enteprise 2.0 Summit: The Enterprise Socal Network Event

  • France is considered by Bjorn as the centre of Europe. The event is definitely international and moved away from Germany a few years ago in order to open up to the rest of Europe even better than it had done before
  • The European market is as usual very varied, if we except multinationals which tend to be pretty much the same throughout the continent. Bjorn however describes the SME market as a very local market for each of the countries involved, with 3 major hotspots being the usual suspects (UK, Germany and France).
  • Regarding enterprise social network adoption, Bjorn has established a 3 tier hierarchy of companies having embarked on enterprise social network projects:
    • first, the first generation projects, mostly in big companies, which tend to be “stuck in the Middle”. These accounts started off with management support and failed to gain momentum within a broader employee base,
    • Secondly, the new players, still mostly in big companies, with major examples like Solvay or Bosch, who are coming late in the game, but are better implementing enterprise social networks with a broader managerial vision,
    • Thirdly, SMEs all over Europe which are leapfrogging all the other types of clients because they tend to be more agile and more business focused.

Don’t miss the Enterprise 2.0 Summit of which Media Aces is a partner