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

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A World Without Email – Year 2, Weeks 28 (Going on an e-mail Diet)

Now that we know how we may have been busy "Working The Web" quite nicely over the last few years, I thought it would be a good time again to check back into the weekly progress report from what some folks out there have been saying lately (And which I like quite a bit!): my project of living "A World Without Email". Specially, after I bumped into quite an intriguing reading that I think you are going to find rather interesting, too, to say the least.

But first, and like usual, let’s talk about that weekly progress report and detail what happened last week, as I think that’s probably what most of you folks out there are waiting for. So without much further ado, here it is:

A World Without Email - Year 2, Week 28

As you would be able to see, and for the second week on a row, right on target for those 20 emails, or less, received per week, making a total amount of 19 emails for week 28. Whoahhh, fantastic news! Indeed!

It looks like after that massive peak a couple of weeks back things have gotten into a steady pace of less and less emails and, if things continue the same way, I would be expecting pretty much the same for this week, but with a twist 😉 (More on that one later on … )

So things are looking very good so far! At this pace, and seeing the reports from last year at this time of the year, I am averaging nearly half of the emails I used to get by then! And if the ratio continues to go steady over the remaining weeks I am sure by the end of the year I will be way below the follow up target I set at the beginning of the year. So far, getting there quite nicely, don’t you think?

Anyway, we shall see as time goes by. For now, let’s move into that intriguing article I bumped into last week and which came to me through one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Stefan Pfeiffer, through Twitter, and which I think you are going to find rather interesting as well, like I mentioned above.

Have a look into "Going on an e-mail diet", put together by Mary Pratt over at Computerworld, which talks about how Cubist Pharmaceuticals’ CIO Tony Murabito is on a mission to cut email at his company by as much as 25% in order to help knowledge workers re-gain some of the productivity that they seem to be losing through email. Pretty impressive, if you ask me, considering how this initiative seems to be coming from high above in the management ladder by folks who they themselves acknowledge there is a problem with email. WOW! Yes, I know, exactly the same thing I thought of when I first read it.

However, it may seem a bit misleading altogether though, specially if you read through the entire article. Why? Well, initially because of some of the quotes mentioned throughout. Like this one:

""It showed they were using e-mails for more than point-to-point communication. Some were using it for document management," by Tony Muribato"

This is not something new. I am sure you would agree with that. Plenty of knowledge workers use their Inboxes as their to-do lists, content and file sharing repositories, work tracking and auditorial mechanisms, their delegation machines, as well as that Pandora’s box where everything goes. And the list could go on and on and on…

So why do I find the article intriguing? Well, not sure whether you have seen it or not, but inside the article there is a small section under the heading "E-Mail Regimen" which, pretty much, describes how they are planning on cutting down that email. In short, by using email and re-defining some of its various uses! Have a look yourself into the snapshot I took from that short section, so you can check it out for yourself.

My first reaction to reading through the entire article, including that part on E-Mail Regimen was actually what a missed opportunity! A missed opportunity to help introduce various social software tools that would help knowledge workers, first, diversify their email and then fragment it into other pieces much easier to consume, process, and share across with their peers. By making use of social software tools.

Yes, a missed opportunity! With the introduction of those new ways and methods of handling email I am sure they would probably make that target of 25%; they sound rather on target to meet their new needs; but I am wondering … why stop there? Why not take things further into the next step? In the article itself there is no mention on whether Cubist Pharmaceuticals is starting to explore social software or not. I hope they are. I surely hope they are, because right then they will realise how short that 25% target is and how much potential to increase that % there is by making use of social software. Why? … Because of quotes like this one:

"Booher’s surveys of clients have shown that 58% of workers spend up to three hours a day on e-mail"

Not sure whether Cubist Pharmaceuticals would be one of those companies where employees spend up to three hours a day handling email or not. I just know over 18 months ago I used to be one of those knowledge workers spending that amount of time going through email. Plus then my daily job. 18 months later, I am happy to report, and share across, how I now spend around 10 minutes a day (Yes, 10 minutes!) to process the very little email I get (1:1 confidential conversations and calendaring & scheduling events) and the rest of the day I just keep doing my job, using some of those various social tools I have talked about in the past already.

Not sure what you folks would think about this one, but going from 21 hours per week to 50 minutes per week, by making use of social software and giving up on corporate email, is on its own quite a solid business case on how not only could you go on an email diet, but perhaps more along the line of wiping email out altogether for your knowledge workers! Or, at least, a large chunk of it. I will let you do the math now …

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