If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change

Drowning in Email?
Drowning in Email?

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change”

I am going to drag up an old topic here surrounding email its validity today. Lets look at email in our everyday lives, we check it what every 2 minutes? We receive 1000’s of emails at work surrounding marketing, news announcements, requests, tasks, calendar invites…..the list goes on and on! I am now reaching that tipping point where email consumes a lot of my time and I am sure you are no different, whatever Microsoft gives us to make email better such as categories, tasks, folders etc it is still a nightmare to use.

What particularly frustrates me is the “I sent you an email, did you not get it?” To which my response is usually, no I didn’t as I receive around 200 emails a day and to be honest going through them all would take all day. Lets take my inbox right now, currently sat at “3286” unread messages, these are from all manner of departments, people,  companies.

I tried the fabled email blackouts, time management courses, email management courses and none are an advisable path to getting past emails as suffice to say some people just rely on emails and here we get to the crux of the issue, the issue is not with technology it is to do with people. People who know and like email will not change to a different format as it requires stepping out of their comfort zone and adapting to something new.

We live in a world where Twitter is used by finance companies such as Bloomberg to monitor markets and chatter, huge forums of people on blogs, user groups and not to mention we have mobile phones, so why do we manage huge email farms which lets face it they drain the resources from your computer, consume your day, distract you constantly from your actual job and cause huge frustration. The answer is as simple as it is annoying “Legacy”, process is king in companies and if their process involves email (most likely sending spreadsheets/PPT/Word Docs over email) then this is difficult to break.

So in our company we have Salesforce which is a step in the right direction, we also use Salesforce Chatter which is designed to be a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. It has some inherent flaws though on usability and seems more of an after thought. For instance in your news feed you cannot filter by “Post Type” which is hugely frustrating as your news feed is full of items you do not care about. It is a work in progress as far as I am concerned  but its flaws are what stop people adopting this as they piggy back on this excuse to say “well its not as good as it could be”.

You are starting to see my issue here? If we cannot change and adapt to new technologies then they cannot progress it is as simple as that, why would someone spend developing time and money to develop something no one wants to use.

The resolution to this at a high level is extremely simple, an application needs to be developed which is user friendly and attractive to use, think of Apple why do people flock to them? It is because they are good to use, give people a good experience and they will always return. Amazon and ebay are the true master examples of such customer experience.

Just imagine one application which was a hub for all your communications if I take my role as an example, I would love to have a single pane of glass which shows me direct messages, forums/groups I am in news feeds, web feeds for my account sets, face time or integration in to my phone and a calendar. Is that so much to ask? The idea is painstakingly simple, one screen, one interface for all this communication and cut out all the chatter that companies generate everyday with what effectively is spam. Each pane of glass should be tailored to someones role within that company, i.e. if they are financial they have financial data etc on their screens.

Technology is supposed to becoming more integrated in to our lives, but email is the dinosaur which we all steer back to and to be honest it needs to change. When I started my first job I had social media already and email even back then in 2007 seemed old school. The distance that technology has come since then seriously puts Email in the dark and it would take one good application to change the face of this.

Of course I cannot end this article without mentioning “Mailbox” I cannot convey how disappointed I was with the mailbox application, it was simply a few gestures on your mail which categorised them. Mailbox is not revolutionary it is merely putting putting Shrek in a dress. Quite a harsh statement I know but lets face it, has Mailbox lived up to any of its claims? The issues is not trying to adapt what we have rather change what we have at the foundations.

I am not alone I am sure in this rant, and visionaries of IT have been claiming they need to get rid of email for a long time, ATOS CEO even went as far as claiming he would remove email in coming years, but quickly returned on his statement. I would love to see one company that has used email for years just say “that’s it turn off the servers, this is the new platform, adjust to it”.

So to finish on my starting comment, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change”  simply put if you sit down and realise the potential you can see room for change.

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