The Importance Of Centralized Workflow

I read an article on Yahoo News about the French tech company Atos – they are “stopping email” within their company, because the CEO believes only 10% is useful (and up to 18% is just spam).  After doing the math, I can’t help but wonder if I am right about what the other “144 useless messages” are.

We often find email-overusage in companies that do not leverage proactive systems and workflow.  People are programmed to use what you give them.  15 years ago you probably gave them email, and at the time they were sooooooo happy – the end to the voicemail madness!  However, in the last 15 years, what additional tools have you given them to organize their lives?  We are asking employees to do more and more, but aren’t necessarily giving them the tools to accomplish all of this additional responsibility.

When a client of ours explains to us that they have “email overload”, we often pitch a 2-step approach:

  1. Build proactive automation within their CRM system.  By pushing key information directly to users, in a just-in-time fashion, users are less likely to “ask” the status of issues, and will not arbitrarily “FYI” everyone on simple mundane issues and tasks.  Use metrics to measure everything, and when they fall “out of scope”, only then send an alert of an email.
  2. Build a centralized Workflow Portal to capture “everything else”.  This would be a spot to capture any work activities executed by cross-functional teams – collaborative proposals, new marketing or product initiatives, cost reduction projects, and so on.  These are the places where the “Social Enterprise” should live.  Don’t just set up a Wiki, put the Wiki directly within the scope of the project or initiative.

To me, email is not the problem.  The true issue lies in the fact that team’s need a specific place to put information, and process for collaboration.  If none exists, they will leverage the tools they already have – email and meetings.  In my opinion, simply shutting off email at Atos will not solve the problem.  Instead, users will spend much of their day going desk to desk (or conference call to conference call) “CC’ing” information as they have done before.