Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Some Suggestions for Fixing Corporate Email

By Dennis D. McDonald

In my recent post Questions to Ask Before Replacing Corporate Email I listed questions management should ask about corporate email to help plan for adoption of more modern collaborative software applications. The idea behind that post was simple:

  • Understanding email usage patterns tells us a lot about potential collaboration patterns.
  • Knowing these patterns will help ensure the success of an introduction of collaboration software into an organization.

Corporate IT manager Jim MacLennan, about whom I have written before (see here and here), is also concerned about corporate email. Three particular problems he discusses are the costs of doing regular backups, the complexities of doing email software upgrades, and the complexities, legal and otherwise, of implementing document retention policies.

In his recent post Desperately Needed Features for eMail Clients/Servers he proposes two specific fixes:

  1. Eliminate the Reply All feature.
  2. Mail clients should delete attachments from the reply by default.

These useful suggestions address the physical problems associated with email that MacLennan has to deal with. They might also improve corporate efficiency by reducing the amount of incoming mail and  the needless proliferation of attachments.

However, would they help make email a more efficient collaboration tool?

The answer to that question is not clear. Jim begins to address this issue with a realistic assessment of how much impact corporate IT can have on the behavior of individual email users:

… there’s simply no good business case for taking time away from anyone’s busy day to organize their desk; they either do it or they don’t. Mailbox quotas are IT’s way of trying to tell you to get your life in order - and that is pushing rope, completely ineffective unless the person actually wants to change. It doesn’t grow revenue, and it doesn’t save cost (well, not much).

While I believe that email is no by itself an effective tool for collaboration I do believe that many of the complaints we hear about email occur because many people don’t really know how to effectively use email. 

Perhaps many of the volume-related complaints we hear about email would be solved if people were to ask a simple question before clicking the “send” button: who really needs to receive this email message?

Along those lines, Jim links to Lifehacker’s Top 10 Email Productivity Boosters. This offers a list of suggestions for more efficient use of email. The suggestions offered in this list are based on three very basic ideas:

  1. Think about your email before you send it.
  2. Organize your incoming email into basic action categories.
  3. Understand and take advantage of the capabilities of your email tool.

While email may lack collaboration features such as indication of presence, group creation and maintenance, task management, expertise location, and shared file access and editing, getting one’s email house in order could be just as valuable as adopting new collaboration software tools.

  • Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D. McDonald




Is "My Dow Network" a "Social Network"?

Howlett Makes Some Good Points About Enterprise Web 2.0 Adoption