Web, Internet and the Economy

Has e-mail usage in the enterprise gone any better … or worse?

At first sight, this question about e-mail usage might seem ludicrous. But in actual fact it’s not. In 1999 I wrote an article for a French online magazine related to e-mail usage in the professional sphere in which I was drawing my own conclusions after 10 years of e-mail usage both in and out of the enterprise (11 years within and 5 years without to be precise).
Has e-mail usage in the enterprise gone any better ... or worse?
Has e-mail usage in the enterprise gone any better … or worse?
Even then I could sense that something was going amiss with e-mail usage. I was pointing out that we had gone a long way since the introduction of Corporate e-mail systems in the mid nineteen eighties. At that time, the issue was about getting managers to answer their e-mail directly. This battle was mostly won a decade later but I was also pointing out that there was a downside to this piece of good news and that a number of bad habits had developed throughout the years which required close examination. I then proceded to describe all these examples of email abuse.

So, what is the status now that another 10 years almost have gone by? Have users become any better at using this medium? Or any worse? Has mobile e-mail made things better or caused even more aggravation? In the open Internet world, things are clear. Either you receive an email that is sollicited or it’s a spam. Boring, longish and inapropriate email requests which would be better answered by phone aren’t a real issue. Internet users just ignore them and that’s that. But in the business world, the rules of the game are radically different. For a start, most people feel under pressure when it comes to answering emails like this. These are most of the time messages aimed at covering oneself (sometimes dubbed with the not so tasteful acronym CYA, which I will not translate but feel free to click the link if you so wish). You just can’t ignore them. Something’s got to be done about them, no matter what. But the real question is: how can you avoid spilling even more oil on the fire when you do?

I have a feeling that the answer to the two above questions if I had to provide them point blank wouldn’t be positive. Real-time dictatorship is everywhere. We have to act fast, we have to do more, we have to prove more efficient, so that email overflow is supposedly a sign that our work is efficient. Well, not really in fact. Probably just the other way round. I know that there are quite a few twitterites (http://www.twitter.com is a community ‘microblogging’ platform heavily used by Web 2.0 players to exchange rapidly with their ‘followers’) around me who’d even like the damn thing killed. I’m not suggesting that. If they have a point when saying that it’s nicer to get to a social website and interact with whoever you choose to, email suppression is not an option. We need email, but surely we also need it a little differently.

Consultancy firm Deloitte is one of these companies advocating ‘no e-mail Fridays’ in order to prevent employees offloading large lists tasks onto their colleagues a few minutes before the week-end. This kind of radical measure is proving two things: one that this is a sign – Deloitte aren’t alone – that this issue with email is more universal than just me getting annoyed. Secondly, that if a performing consulting group can function without e-mail at least once a week, others could too. This is as true a feasibility study as you can get. Other means of interaction exist and they aren’t too exotic.

Yann Gourvennec
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Yann Gourvennec

Yann Gourvennec created visionarymarketing.com in 1996. He is a speaker and author of 6 books. In 2014 he went from intrapreneur to entrepreneur, when he created his digital marketing agency. ———————————————————— Yann Gourvennec a créé visionarymarketing.com en 1996. Il est conférencier et auteur de 6 livres. En 2014, il est passé d'intrapreneur à entrepreneur en créant son agence de marketing numérique. More »

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