Genius PMO: Let’s Kill Email! Lessons From A Leading Technology Firm…


In case you haven’t heard the big news yet, Atos (a multi-Billion dollar IT firm) announced that it plans the global elimination of email from all of its offices. Now that’s a big, bold move! A move that is going to trigger a cascade of  projects at Atos. Maybe, it should also trigger some projects for your project portfolio? Just how did Atos come to the conclusion that email was bad for the corporation, and have they learned something that we all need to know?  Today, we’re going to take a deeper look at Atos’ decision to kill email. Let’s dive right in!

We all have issues with email. We get emails we don’t want. We get emails that don’t look like they don’t apply to us, but we have to at least scan all 20 pages to see if have some role that is buried in the text. There are occasional “snowball fights,” emails accidentally sent to thousands of users, generating many emails like: “you used the wrong list”, “guys, stop replying to this email!”, “just tell the guy who sent this to stop… NOT the whole distribution”,  “Aren’t you listening STOP! STOP!”… until your email box is overflowing! Rather than just getting annoyed, the managers at Atos decided to quantify the opportunities to improve life… without email”

  • To start with, Atos is fairly big… 80,00 employees in 42 countries.
  • Atos found that the average employee receives 100 emails a day. Does this sound like your organization?
  • Workers spend time at work and at home (and everywhere in between) reading and responding to emails.
  • Only 15% of emails were in any way useful or relevant to their work. The remaining 85% were wasted time.
  • Work hours can be counted a LOT of different ways, but this “wasted” time is equivalent to 20,000 to 40,000 FTE’s, depending on how you measure work hours.
  • To this enormous cost we can add the cost of email servers, email archiving, and emails that need to be analyzed for e-discovery when your firm is sued.
  • Just by making their “email is bad” announcement, people are a bit more careful and emails have dropped by 20%.

When we entered the corporate computer age, somewhere in the 80s-90s, we were told that we would soon be freed of the tyranny of paper. The paperless office would be led by email and our lives would improve. Well, as is often the case, one tyranny often replaces another. While there are many advantages to email (how would I ever cope without all of my vital… Viagra, Canadian pharmaceuticals, mortgage refinancing… announcements?), having a cloud of unwanted mail follow me on my computer, my laptop,  my cell phone… is exhausting! If the numbers that Atos produced are even a magnitude of order less, this could be the single largest opportunity in this decade for your firm to improve efficiency. But what do you do with this information? Here are a few steps you should consider:

  1. Email Owners: Who owns email in your firm? There probably is no single answer, but the managers of email are probably somewhere in IT. Start there and find out if there is support for some method of restraining the growth of email. What is the cost of maintaining the email service in your organization? Speak with your legal and compliance departments. What is your firm’s policy for retaining documents and how often are these archives called up… perhaps for lawsuits? What is the cost of compliance with legal requirements, including document reviews during e-discovery? Also speak with HR. How much of their time is spent with email issues: things said in anger in email, harassment issues, misquoted compensation, and agreements made with employees that should never have been made. As all of these groups about the cost of having an email system.
  2. Usage: Can IT provide you with information on your firm’s use of email? What is the average number of emails per day… per employee? What was the highest peak day? What is the year to year trend, and is it climbing? Are there departments with higher than average email volumes? If the volumes are similar to Atos, then their other logic may apply as well. If the trend is a sharp rise in email, look at the last five years (or however much data IT has). If the problem is bad, will it get considerably worse?
  3. The Users: Seek out departments with an interest in email improvement. Perhaps those with the highest volumes, or those where email is not a part of a production process. You may have already had conversations with department heads who are frustrated with email, but don’t have any alternatives. Begin to map out potential advocates for change, and the potential value of change in each department.
  4. Pain Points: What are the problems that each department is facing and how would an alternative to email help them? Since the beginning of the year is almost here, you might want to find out which departments have the biggest gap between what they need for a 2112 budget and what they received.  Are some departments faced with multi-year financial shortfalls, but no plan on how to address the lack of funding? Understand these pain points and if a change in email would address them, or at least free up the resources that could fund a solution.
  5. Project Portfolio: From these steps you should now have a reasonable vision of the size of the opportunity and the level of support for change. From these conversations, there may be some immediate projects for your portfolio. But more importantly, add to your 2012  portfolio a project to further develop the opportunity and the support for a radical change in email. Perhaps you need to follow the example of Atos and replace email with a newer technology, or there may be a better way of taming your email beast. Whatever the solution, if the magnitude of your problem is truly great, you’re going to need a powerful case study and an exceptionally highly placed sponsor. The point of this project is to see if you can build the case and find the sponsor!

If your firm has a truly massive email problem (and most of us do), then you have an opportunity to develop some incredibly powerful projects. Seize the opportunity to free your fellow workers from the tyranny of email, and drive a revolution in corporate communication! And that’s my Niccolls worth for today!

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One Response to Genius PMO: Let’s Kill Email! Lessons From A Leading Technology Firm…

  1. Pingback: PMO Genius: Time To Open The “Office of Email” | Niccolls AND Dimes

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