For most of us, a day of work begins by confronting our bulky inboxes. Reply here, attach there, forward, and delete … a repetitive, but indispensable process that can sometimes take entire mornings to wrap up. It is impossible to give up on our email, which makes this love-hate relationship one that’s in desperate need of counselling.
The need to share documents, discuss projects, meetings, is indisputable. Link sharing via email is one of the easiest ways to provide others with information, and to remind ourselves of important pieces that we find here and there. Link sharing helps us to broaden the horizon of information we can count on, to be sure. If effectively used – link sharing will help us deliver more accurate reporting and will help us to better use the specialised knowledge that most business problems demand. The main issue behind link sharing is undoubtedly – to manage the myriad of links that we get in our inboxes. The reality is that for all the potential that much of this shared information can have, most of it will simply end up in the same place … our junk box!
Email overload can distract and affect your productivity
Have you recently had a day of work in which you discovered that you spent most of your day replying to emails? If this has happened to you then you are familiar with email overload. If this happens to you frequently then, like many of us, you need to get email overload under control.
Making matters worse, much of the email correspondence is composed of cc’s, bcc’s, notifications, rectifications, attachments, and so forth, all of which is meant to be managed and organized but not necessarily read and replied. In case we need to add a comment ourselves the situation becomes nightmarish as recipients here and there will be added to threads that soon become exponential in their growth. Managing our emails has become an overwhelming task that affects almost every office worker, regardless of industry and company size. A quick Google search on ‘email overload’ gives us a long list of authoritative articles discussing the main issues that cause and are cause by email overload – among others Inc.com, TNW, and CBSnews.
Is it the right person?
It is often the case that we need to discuss a project with our clients, but are unsure about the person that should receive it. ‘I have forwarded your email to the person in charge of …’ is a common phrase that usually ends in a snowballing process, where most of the recipients included in a thread are wrongly there. Those few relevant people will, in turn, have to scroll down through puzzles of unmarked information and unrelated comments.
Multiple recipients, multiple replies?
Sharing updates and attachments with several co-workers and clients can become a messy experience, because email is not meant to support conversations between teams, but between individuals. Multiple recipient emails end up quickly in trash bins or at best lost between innumerable messages. Few things can be as annoying as knowing that you received an email at some point with key information, but are unable to find it within the ocean of your inbox. When it comes to team discussions, comments and feedback, the best solution is to avoid trusting your email with the task.
Limitations for setting your own email preferences
Most email platforms come with complex personalisation options, which can be helpful to filter your incoming mail. Making categorized folders, flagging, and prioritising are helpful tools. The problem with email preferences is that they are not readily-accessible and will many times not allow for the refined archiving that you need. After all – an email was not designed as an archiving system.
Dealing with an overflow of emails is therefore a task that takes a toll on productivity. Peter Bregman says that email has actually become a distraction, because it interrupts a smooth workflow and transforms into another break from daily activities. Checking and responding to email is surely not the “ideal break” for anyone, and nobody wants their workers spending their breaks answering emails. The nuances of email overload have driven companies to take drastic action. Bloomberg reports that some companies like Nielsen are even close to abolishing “reply all” altogether to eliminate “bureaucracy and inefficiency”.
For most specialists the answer to email overload lies in taking advantage of social collaboration tools like AmiLinker, which can help you share, organize and archive links and information in a more efficient and intuitive manner. The key to AmiLinker’s success is that it can be adopted, without harming the productivity of your business, because it seamlessly integrates with your current devices, including tablets and smart phones.
In all this – it’s important to make an intuitive observation that this problem (created by humans) is not really one that machines can solve. Tools to automate and manage emails sometimes contribute to the problem, and leave something highly flexible (like email) fairly inflexible – because they often assume emails are part of standard processes. The root cause of the problem is much more interesting – it’s an “email culture” and the mindset of “email me” to make something real. However, despite these largely human problems – there are ways that tools can nudge humans into new behaviours and cultures which actually help to solve the problem at their human root.
Switching from email to social collaboration tools
The idea of using social collaboration tools rather than email to avoid many of the messy complications of bulky email boxes is not new. The issue, however, is to find a social software that is convenient for business, which is not the case with the big social media players. During the Enterprise 2.0 Conference held last year in Boston, Formicary Collaboration Group (FCG) Vice President, Daanish Khan, responded when asked about the current solutions to email overload that “traditional email and social networking technology tools have fallen short in the enterprise in delivering business value because they’re not ideal for interactive, team-based collaboration”.
There is also a big security issue with the major cloud players, because you have no control over where in the world your data is being saved. This makes the task of finding a more suitable solution even more urgent. AmiLinker is a social collaboration tool that fosters secure, streamlined, team-based communication that businesses can always keep track of and control, without any risk involved – as the app is on-premise. You can still use it externally – which offers a hybrid between two worlds.
The role that social collaboration tools can play in dealing with email overload is not small. A study made this year by McKinsey Global Institute reported that social technologies improved internal communication and productivity by 20 to 25 percent. This is as an improvement that translates in greater efficiencies, more synergy driven processes and less waste of valuable human resources. It is, however, a switch that no company can afford if it will imply increased complexity, which can seriously harm productivity. AmiLinker is a social collaboration software that was designed to help businesses simplify rather than complicate the way they manage and organize valuable, but difficult to access, information.
AmiLinker is without a doubt an innovative application that thinks social collaboration from a business perspective. The results is an interface that allows workers to archive, sort and curate information in ways that are much more intuitive and common sense driven, than normal social media applications. AmiLinker, thus, makes it easier for users to find the information they need, without having to dig through months’ worth of emails.
AmiLinker helps workers deal with link sharing in an easy and productive manner. Instead of endless back and forth, which increases the risk of information loss, switch to AmiLinker and begin sharing, commenting and discussing links that would have inevitably been lost in your email.
Pick the right collaboration tool
To conclude – we’d like to paint a nightmare scenario of the worst possible case. Let’s imagine that a social collaboration platform – brought in to reduce overload – actually increases overload. We all know what these emails look like – “John Smith just started following you”, “Jane just commented on your blog post” and “You have 6 new connection requests”.
What makes this worse is that vendors push for engagement/adoption based on flooding users with invites to use their tool – and then keeping them “hooked” by emails which pester them to visit their tool again. This does not work for users – it just works for vendors, who can then claim that their system was “adopted”.
We built AmiLinker after considering this delicately and precisely, with some common sense. Many vendors are touting hundreds of features on their social collaboration platforms. However, if the “alerts” from all these actually end up as machine generated/robot emails – then how would they decrease your email overload? If anything – they would increase it! Further – how would you search a mess of unranked and unmeasured microblog messages, blog posts, wiki pages and profiles and produce a set of search results which actually worked?
AmiLinker gets round these issues by being precise and simple in just one approach – sharing pointers.
We tend to use email for sharing pointers, so shifting this load to the tool is a precise answer to a defined problem. Which is much better than a bloated (and expensive/unusable) answer to a general idea.