Extracted from The trouble with office email By Geoff Nairn
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.
In an unprecedented move to reduce information overload, Atos Origin, European IT services company, plans to ban employees from using email for internal communications. The ban will affect more than 50,000 employees although it will not take affect until 2014.
Thierry Breton, chief executive of Atos Origin, argues the ban is necessary because the volume of email circulating inside his company is now “unsustainable”, causing managers to spend between five and 25 hours a week just reading and writing emails.
He told employees earlier this month that the company intends to eradicate emails between employees within three years. Email will still be used for external communications but employees will be expected to use collaboration and social media tools instead of email to communicate with fellow co-workers.
A recent survey, conducted by legal information firm Lexis-Nexis, found information overload was a widespread and growing problem among white collar workers around the globe. Six out of ten workers said the constant flow of email distracting them from concentrating on the task in hand.
Just as email has today largely displaced voicemail for leaving messages, Mr Redding argues newer technologies will also sideline email.
By 2014, Gartner predicts social networking services will replace e-mail as the principal method of interpersonal communications for 20 per cent of business users. This shift is already evident in Atos Origin particularly with workers under 30 — the so-called Generation Y. “These people do not use email any more. They use social media tools,” he says.
The growing use of consumer-oriented platforms such as Twitter and Facebook by businesspeople has spawned a new generation of enterprise social software tools such as Yammer, Socialtext and Chatter.
Atos Origin is looking at using Spigit, a collaboration tool designed for “innovation management”. Jive Software offers a similar product.
Conventional email programs and newer cloud-based services such as Gmail let users organise incoming email using folders and filters. But most people cannot be bothered or do not know how to set up the filters, says Sara Radicati, CEO of analyst firm Radicati Group.
“These solutions may help high-volume mail users but the risk is they simply move the problem to another level. At the end of the day, a lot of the problems with email come down to user education,” says Ms Radicati.
Would you favour a global internal email ban? Is social media likely to displace email? Is focussing on email or indeed other channels when things go wrong actually missing a wider point?
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