You have just remembered you need to a list of outstanding invoices before you walk into your next sales meeting in 20 minutes. Do you quickly shoot off an email to all your colleagues in the accounts department?
One theory suggests not. In businesses with several staff, rapid requests and information sharing can be better done through more informal channels, some experts argue. While email is literally the electronic equivalent of postal mail, internal communications can afford to be more disposable, less cumbersome and more instantaneous. Instead, staff should use instant-chat style services popularised by FaceBook, Twitter and other social media networks.
Two years ago one of Europe’s largest IT services companies made headlines when the CEO banned staff from sending each other emails, on the grounds that it was an outdated communication medium and wasted time.
Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos and a former French finance minister, said that only 10 percent of the 200 electronic messages his employees received each day turned out to be useful, reported the UK Telegraph. Instead of staff spending between 5-20 hours handling emails they had to move to a Facebook style interface, Breton said.
The Telegraph quoted a report by the social and business responsibility watchdog ORSE which said reading useless messages sabotaged a worker’s concentration as it took 64 seconds to return to the task at hand. “Poorly controlled, the email can become a devastating tool,” it warned.
“The email is a real problem,” said Nicolas Moinet, information and communication professor at Poitiers University. “We have now reached crazy situations where employees go to a meeting, continue to send emails and then ask colleagues present to send them an email to know what was said during that meeting,” he told the 20 Minutes news website.
Businesses, particularly those looking to hire from graduates, had to follow the lead set by school children who used online social networks to communicate and only set up an email address to communicate with their elders and businesses.
BoxFreeIT has spoken to accounting firms using Microsoft Yammer for internal communications. Software companies use it too – Xero is another well known Yammer user. Another private group messaging service is HipChat, taken up by marketing companies and publishers.
Salesforce.com released its own instant-messaging service, Chatter, as part of its customer relationship management platform (CRM). With Chatter a company could communicate not just internally but with suppliers and customers, wrote Andy Pattinson, a sales exectuive at Cloud Sherpa and a BoxFreeIT columnist.
“Rather than send an email to your colleague, your team or your company each time you need to communicate something you can now write a post,” Pattinson wrote on BoxFreeIT.
“This is a more open approach to communication in your business, you can post updates without worrying who you need to cc, your updates will be consumed by those people who are interested in what you’re working on,” Pattinson said.
While the deluge of communication will not disappear by moving the conversation from email to instant messaging, employees can dip into streams at appropriate times rather than have to deal with emails as they arrive.
Removing internal email from your business can have a dramatic effect. Pattinson claims the hundreds of email he receives each week dropped by more than 60 percent. “And I know more about what’s going on, things happen faster and I have a better start to my day,” he says.