Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Why email isn’t the answer

Email has revolutionised our lives. No question. The days of typing memos and sending them round to the next office in a large brown envelope have long gone. (I realise the Facebook generation have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. You will just have to take it on trust that that’s what happened in the “old days”.)

So we’ve come a long way. In the blink of an eye my email can be in Edinburgh or Bangalore. I can even attach a document or a spreadsheet. Communication is easier than it has ever been.

But when it comes to organising information, email has a lot to answer for.

Yes, we can get our message across quickly. Yes, we can circulate documents to any number of people very quickly. But what we can’t do is order and prioritise information.

We can’t ensure everyone has remembered to read the agenda before the meeting. We don’t always send out everything for the meeting all together. And sometimes things have to be amended before the meeting.

So all you can be sure of is that your message has gone to the top of someone’s inbox - until the next message arrives. Then the next. And the next. Until your message is, well, somewhere in the pile of emails. Then it’s anyone’s guess what gets retrieved before that crucial meeting.

What’s needed is a way of organising information so everything is together:
  • The meeting objectives
  • The agenda
  • The latest version of documents relating to the meeting
  • Attendees
  • Date, time and location of the meeting
  • Minutes after the meeting
And indeed to make sure that other documents such as budgets or project plans are easily to hand.

Whilst email has revolutionised the world of work, there is still further to go.

Collaboration software complements email by adding organisation and order. It enables everything to be in one place for everyone to access. So there is one version of the objectives and agenda. And, crucially, everyone is working on the latest copy of the proposal/budget/project plan (delete as appropriate).

So there is no last minute scrabbling around wondering where the meeting is being held, or whether anyone circulated an agenda. Because it’s all there together to be reviewed when you’re ready. Cool.

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