The War on Email

Inbox Heroes: HyperOffice Warns of Self-Inflicted Email Injury

inbox hero Inbox Heroes: HyperOffice Warns of Self Inflicted Email Injury

Mr. Taneja.

Pankaj Taneja is the marketing dude at HyperOffice, a pioneer in cloud collaboration since 1998. Apart from others things, one of the missions of his life is to help people get over their email addiction.

Much of our email overload consists of newsletters we signed up for in eras gone by, unsolicited mails from sales people promising to change our lives for ever and ever, desperate pleas for help, promises to share inheritance or increase our “endowments,” and notifications from the umpteen social networks we are part of. And we revel in whining about it to no end.

But we business users have less of an excuse. Corporate filters are increasingly efficient in catching and incinerating email of the above kind. Yet we face email overload nonetheless. Research finds that the typical corporate worker sent and received close to 110 emails per day and we spend half of our work day dealing with this information barrage from email and other sources. So what does this bloated inbox consist of?

Look closely.
How many of emails have the merry queue of RE:RE:RE:RE.. as a subject line? Look even closer. How many of these emails can be put in one of the following categories–a discussion, a task you delegated to others or vice versa, a document you are collaborating on with others, or everyone trying to coordinate a meeting?

Notice that none of the above qualify as one-to-one communication, for which email was mainly designed. Heck, it is not even one to many. It is many-to-many, where everyone needs to interact with everyone else. And many-to-many communication is collaboration.

As soon as you try to employ email for many-to-many interactions, hell breaks loose–exponentially. Consider the following all-too-familiar situation, and keep the email counter running. You send an email to two people to finalize a meeting time. One says yes, the other requests a reschedule. You reply to all, suggesting a new time. The new proposed time is unfortunately not suitable for the first person. Another set of responses, another reply to all for a reschedule. Finally everyone responds agreeing on a time. If you have been counting, the whole thread added nine emails to your inbox. And this was just three people.

This is what James Gaskin has called the “law of meeting coordination:”

V = P2

where the number of potential emails going back and forth is the square of participants in the thread. The law is equally applicable to a more complex situation like using email for working together on a document, where people are more likely to have disagreements and the document is going to fly back and forth multiple times. What to speak of the hassle of making sure that everyone is working off the latest version.

Ironically, there are tools which have been designed for these specific tasks. Information tools designed for “many to many” interactions–collaboration tools–online calendars for scheduling, project management for task delegation, document management for working together on documents, and discussion forums for discussions. And businesses are increasingly accepting collaboration tools as the next generation information management software, given the continuing growth of this market. At a conceptual level, rather than pushing duplicate copies of data back and forth (think a document attachment), everyone accesses and works off a common instance of data (think everyone accessing and working on a document in a shared online folder). Here, people are “pulled” to the data as opposed to it being “pushed” to everyone.

So we have the tools to combat a big chunk of this email overload, and also enjoy other vaunted organizational and productivity benefits of collaboration tools. However, email persists, while many email killers die and are forgotten. We have to acknowledge that getting rid of email is equally a behavioral problem, as a technological problem. Ancient tool as it is, its simplicity and familiarity simply has us addicted. Email users have to be cajoled, trained and even coerced to wean them off email. Our approach is that our HyperOffice Collaboration Suite includes collaboration tools fully integrated with email. The fact that collaboration tools are part of the same console as email reduces barriers to adoption. Contextual integration, like the email-to-tasks button which converts emails into tasks further helps.

Hopefully, the day will come when email will matter to us less and less, and horrifying reply to all stories will be a thing of the past.

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Comments

  1. Meshin says:

    Great article. Beyond collaboration tools, there’s always priority. 

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  2. Williams G_gebrel1 says:

    Compliment of the day. Excuse my intrusion into your private life without your prior permission.I hope my mail will not cause you much embarrassment as I write to you in good faith.

    please reply me hear for security reason williams.g_gebrel1@hotmail.fr

    Dear sir

    My name is Mr. Williams G. gebrel; I am the regional chief accountant manager of Bank international of africa(BIA BANK) Togo, branch in the Volta region of Togo. I am a 44 year’s old married man blessed with three lovely kids. I am a man of peace and I don’t want problems, I only hope you can assist me. I have packaged a financial transaction that will benefit you and me.

    As the regional chief accountant manager of the Bank international of africa (BIA BANK) Togo, it is my duty to send in a financial report to my head office in the capital at the end of each year. But in the course of the last year 2011 fiscal report, I discovered that my branch in which I am the account chief manager a dormant amount of eight million united states dollar ($8,000.000.00USD) which my head office are not aware of and will never be aware of. This fund I have placed in what we call “escrow call” account with no beneficiary. As an officer of this bank I cannot be directly connected to this money, so my aim of contacting you is for you to assist me receive this money in your country through your bank account, and get 30% of the total funds as commission.

    There is practically no risk involved, it will be bank-to-bank transfer, all I need from you Is to stand claims as the original depositor next of kin of this fund, who made the deposit with my branch so that my head office can order the transfer to your designated bank account.

    I discovered the said amount of money during our last audit work in the month of April 2010. I discovered also that this money belongs to one Mr. Burckhard, Erich, I needs your help to come out to stand as the next of kin to late Mr. Burckhard, Erich, customer of our bank who died in plane crash on Monday 2ND September 1998 GMT 14:22 UK while they were flying from New York to Geneva..

    I want to make the following points clear for you so that you can have a better understanding of why am contacting you. Open bellow site for confirmation crash.

    http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9809/swissair.victims.list/index.html

    If you accept to work with me I will appreciate it very much.

    Kindly respond to me immediately So that we can go over the details.via our office alternative email address: williams.g_gebrel1@hotmail.fr

    Please, endeavour to furnish me with your alternative e-mail address contact to enhance effective communication.

    The percentage Is negotiable, I hope to hear from you soonest.

    Thanking you in advance.
    Yours truly,
    Mr. Williams G. gebre