E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 7

Phew! What a week!! One of the worst I have had in a long while with lots and lots of things happening in multiple various fronts, both at work and personal wise, including plenty of hectic activity all around. So busy that, as you may have noticed, I missed out, last Friday, putting together the weekly progress report on giving up e-mail. Basically, I just didn’t have enough brain cells left to write it and decided to leave it for some time during the weekend where things would slow down a bit. And they surely have, so here I am putting together this blog post where I will comment further on how week 7 of my fight against work related e-mail went by. Thus let’s get started!

Must say that this past week we are about to finish has been quite an interesting one, and for some folks it may as well be rather gratifying seeing some of the various results, while for others it will prove to be a bit disappointing. Either way, the end-result was actually something to blame on myself and I will explain why in the next few paragraphs. To start with, have a look into the report I am building up every week through the following screen shot:

As you may be able to see, week 7 has been the first one, since I got started with this experiment, where my incoming e-mails have gone up quite substantially. In fact, making a total number that by-passes the first initial week where I got everything started. Yes, that is right. This past week I have been receiving 47 e-mails, two more than the second highest number of e-mails per week for week 1. Ouch!!! Yes, I am sure you would agree with it. Rather painful! And a small drawback on to the overall initiative to give up on work related e-mail! I am sure you would agree with me as well on that one!

However, if you examine the results of the total numbers, it looks like we can see an increase of incoming e-mails towards the end of the week, whereas in previous weeks it was rather low. While updating the spreadsheet I was actually thinking and evaluating what may have gone wrong. I knew there must have been something that increased that number of e-mails. And lo and behold, after a few minutes on last Friday evaluating what happened and going through the mail archives, I figured out what actually happened.

To begin with I had a couple of one-on-one private e-mail communications where I needed to share information that I knew was going to remain of private nature. If you would remember, I mentioned at the very beginning that this kind of communications through e-mail would be the only one I would take and reply to through e-mail itself. The rest is out in the open, public online social computing spaces, whether internal or external to the corporate firewall.

Apart from this increase of one-on-one conversations, there was something else, however, that took a major hit and, believe it or not, it was my own fault. Yes, indeed, something that I realised about on late Friday afternoon and which should have never happened. Meetings!!! Yes, that is right, if you have been following me in Twitter over the last two to three days, you would remember how I have been mentioning all along what a couple of hectic days I had with meetings galore all over the place. Coming to 7 and 8 hour conference calls / meetings every single day for Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. And then, of course, Friday was a day of a massive catchup with some real work for the last three days!

And all of this resulted in me not being available as much as I usually am on various social computing spaces, so eventually people were thinking… "Well, since he is so busy with meetings I better send him an e-mail so that he can check it out after he is done, by which time I won’t be hanging around our mutual social computing spaces, and therefore he would reply back to me through e-mail!" Double OUCH!!!

Yes, that is how I felt about the whole thing, because, certainly, through Wednesday till Friday, that sudden increase if incoming e-mails was provoked by having just too many meetings put together under those days, which prevented me not being available to people, and then trying to catch up with everything else. Meaning that people couldn’t get through to me as they should have. And I suffered from it myself!

If you remember, last week the various different social computing tools weren’t as reliable as this week, where they have been working rather acceptable so far, yet, I failed to cut down on my incoming take of work related e-mails. And, like I have been saying all along, it is not the fault of the experiment itself, but more my own fault. Why? Because for the last few months I have been working with a specific approach where I treat very aggressively meetings & conference calls and just this week for those two days I was a bit more relaxed about it and it got out of control! Well, never again!!

At this very moment I am putting together a draft blog post that I will share this coming week on what that approach is like and how I have been using it for the last few months with an incredibly good success rate. It is probably not as controversial as my fighting work related e-mail. However, I can tell you that it is just as thought-provoking as what I have been doing with processing e-mails. You would have to wait for a few more hours before I release it to the world, but believe me, I know for sure that some people are going to love it and some others are just going to think like … what was he thinking about again?

The thing is that this isn’t anything new. I have been doing this with meetings, before I came into this new job I have had since November last year. However, it is just now that I am coming out public with it, so that folks would know what the deal is with me when processing conference calls and various meetings that people may set up! Thus stay tuned for more to come! And let’s see what happens this coming week as I am back again to my usual self, handling and working my way through meetings.

During this past week though, and touching briefly on some other lovely tidbits, I thought I would point out a couple of interesting links I have bumped into that surely explain why I am doing what I am doing and why there is no way back for me to continue working with e-mail. Yes, there are ups and downs, just coming through from one of those downs, but, hey still here going strong about the whole thing.

The first link is coming from Jeremiah Owyang who put together this lovely blog post a couple of days back that I can certainly encourage you to read, not only the original entry, but also the excellent commentary put together with lots and lots of interesting tips on how to process and work your way through e-mail. As you read further, it will come through to you the clear thought that e-mail is broken. Well, I wouldn’t go that far. E-mail is very much needed, we all know that, what I am just saying is that it needs to be re-purposed for what it was meant for in the first place many many years ago: a one-on-one communication tool to discuss and share information of a private, sensitive or confidential nature. For the rest, everything else should go into an online, public, open social software space where the conversation can certainly flourish much more profoundly than what you could do through e-mail!

And to give you an example of what I mean exactly with that, check out the fantastic (And must read!!) blog post put together by Wikinomics under the title "Wiki collaboration leads to happiness" (Courtesy from Chris Rasmussen) where you will find this wonderful graphic that clearly describes why I am giving up on work related e-mail and why despite potential hurdles there is no way for me to walk back. I saw the light in the past and not planning on giving up that easily:

And the same way that wikis are put into the spot in here, the same would apply to most of the various social computing tools available out there!

Finally, the last link I would want to share with you for now, is this particular blog post from Jon Mell titled: "Wikis as alternatives to email – find the ROI" (As a result of that, and a few other blog posts I caught up with, I have now subscribed to his blog and would certainly recommend you would, too, if you would want to find out how Enterprise 2.0 is helping shift gears within the corporate firewall!); in that article you can read the really fascinating business case he has put together to help validate my giving up on e-mail experiment providing as well some hard data, which would prove to be rather provocative, to say the least. Here it is:

"So we have a drop from 175-45 (75%) at the start and then a further 45-35 (22%) in the subsequent weeks. This has a significant impact for those who are looking for an ROI for internal Web 2.0 projects:

Time saved = 140 * 5 mins per email = 700 mins / 5 day week = 11h:40m. In a 40 hour working week lets say thats 25% to keep things easy (estimates that 25% of employees time is spent on email is not unfounded). Take a 30-man company with a £1,000,000 payroll, that’s a saving of £250,000 (ok, so I know it doesn’t quite work like that, but the point is that signifcant savings are available and this technology is effective even for small organisations)"

And if that is not enough, here is Jon’s conclusion, something that I wholeheartedly agree with and which explains why even though this week has seen a rather dramatic increase, I am not backing out just yet. On the contrary, now going further stronger than ever!:

"Not only that, but give each individual an extra 10 hours in their week and that’s more time sellers can sell, more time consultants can charge and more time R&D can innovate. You’ll gain much more than £250,000 on your top line than you’ll squeeze off the bottom line"

Need to add more? I doubt it.

(Thanks much, Jon, for putting together the business case on giving up e-mail and for sharing it with us all!)

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  1. Fantastic post Luis. I definitely will be using the image and the business case this week as I continue trying to convert people to the advantages of wiki usage.

  2. Great post Luis. I will definitely be following your progress. Email reduction is definitely something we want our PBwiki products to be compatible with.

  3. Luis, this is a great post. Thanks.

    I mentioned your efforts yesterday in a presentation I gave on “large-organization use of social media.” The information you present here is a good follow up to that.

    When I was researching the use of blogs as project management tools, the most concrete advantages I was told about for using blogs and wikis in conjunction with project management was “reduction in emails” (http://www.ddmcd.com/findings_01.html).

    Because of that, I’m looking forward to what you say in the future on what specific activities have been impacted (and vice versa) by moving away from email. Also, what has been the influence of your working within an organization that takes social and collaboration technologies seriously? Does this give you an advantage to your being able to replace email with more public communications?


  4. http://www.joemanna.com/blog/unloading-the-e-mail-overload/

    Personally to effectively cope with the incoming streams of information including e-mail, I’m using my summarization application. At a click of a button I get to see the essential keywords and the most important sentences. Over period of time I found that looking at the instant information capsules gives me quite useful insight and saves me a lot of time. If you would like to try out summarization this is the product link: Context Organizer from Context Discovery Inc.

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