Email is one of the greatest aids to business. But it is also one of the greatest time wasters. Most people do not use email efficiently. They do not manage their email – they let email manage them. Some people set aside a time each day to handle email, some try to maintain an empty inbox, but most people just try to make it through the day, hoping nothing important or time-critical slips through the cracks.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to manage your email better. The best place to start is to look at the different types of email that arrive in most people’s inbox. There are those from inside the organisation, and those from outside the organisation.
The most important are those sent only to you by other people within your organisation. They may ask or answer questions or assign tasks. They usually have a clear intent.
Then there are those sent to you and a few other people in the organisation. These are usually sent to the people who need them. But if your inclusion is only in the cc line, you usually don’t need it. Worse still are those sent via a distribution list – corporate announcements and the like.
Emails sent to you from individuals outside the company – sales emails, invitations or customer enquiries – may be the most important ones, depending on your role in the organisation. But those sent to you from outside organisations via automated systems – marketing information, newsletters, etc. – are generally unimportant.
What if we could automate the way we look at each different type of email? And what about other messaging tools like SMS, phone calls, WhatsApp, Skype and all the other smartphone apps and enterprise collaboration suites?
All of these non-email based communication channels should be part of this conversation as well. In fact, they are a key component to tackling email overload.
One way out of the enterprise email quagmire is to have software handle our entire communications channel, and intelligently make use of them as appropriate. We’ve seen the beginnings of this approach, at least for email, with technologies like Google’s Inbox, which sifts through a noisy inbox, categorises communications, and offers quick actions in context of the message.
But that’s nowhere near good enough if we’re to tackle all the different types of messages sitting in the inboxes of millions of employees all over the world. And that’s where an emerging technology known as the communication hub come in.
A communication hub must have the ability to utilise a wide array of channels. We need to add smarts about the people the hub serves, so that it can make better decisions. Contact information is easy. Location information would be useful, and organisational and role information provide context.
We need to schedule information for part time workers and shift workers, and include holiday schedules. Add in skills and certifications and we have a basic set of metadata. The more data you provide, the smarter the system would get.
Organisation structure and knowledge would be very helpful. Groups, backups, escalation plans and other similar information adds richer context for the hub. And a hub needs a place to store individual and group preferences, such as overrides for specific communications, or subscriptions to pull information feeds.
All communications is then routed through the hub. It utilises all the information at its disposal to send information to people, but only when necessary, taking advantage of the appropriate communication channel for the situation:
There are already some great technologies that are starting to tackle email overload, but we’re nowhere near done. Adding more collaboration tools and apps isn’t the answer. We need to take a comprehensive look at how we communicate and build next generation inboxes that are not channel specific.
The multi-channel programmed communication hub is will be the way we tame unmanageable email systems.
About the author:
David Wall is the Regional Vice President, Asia-Pacific and Japan of xMatters, a leader in communication-enabled business processes. xMatters’ cloud-based communications solutions enable any business process or application to trigger two-way communications (push, voice, email, SMS, etc.) throughout the extended enterprise during time-sensitive events.