Anubex handles large migration projects, spanning multiple years, multiple projects with multiple customers in multiple time zones, supported by multiple partners and subcontractors, with a small amount of people split over multiple departments.

This means, that most of us have to deal with communication topics of 1 or more customers, partners and projects at the same time and that there is an explosion of information sharing between people within departments, with customers, with prospects, with support teams, etc.

In order to manage this information explosion, we use email as one of the few communication means to keep in touch, up-to-date, informed about project topics, technical solutions, decisions, etc. It even stretches as far as being distributed to our cellphones, leaving us no excuse not to read our mails when we are on the loo.  

But how is this affecting our work? Is it helping us or hindering us? Is it a blessing that we have the capacity to email anyone, anytime and anywhere? Or is it a curse that we are receiving emails about anything at anytime and anywhere?

I can probably not give you a conclusive answer to the questions above. I can try to give you my opinion and try to give some best practices that we have enabled to actually improve our communication internally and also externally with customers, partners and prospects. All though, the latter will have to be addressed in a future blog.

As I am a positive person, I would like to start with the arguments that would support the blessing outcome.

I think and feel that the most positive aspect of email is that it’s not dependent on the target audience. What do I mean with that? I mean, that we can take our time writing the message, editing it a few times, structuring and re-structuring the message, so that the end product conveys the message as best as possible. I can take as much time as I want (provided that I respond within a day or two) and can make it as perfect as I want.

Secondly, I can reach many people in an instant and everywhere on this planet earth in a blink of an eye without having to consider that they are in a different time zone, busy in a meeting, doing sports or just plain available. And I can put as many people in the list as I want. To be noted, this will also come in the negative list.

Now, on the other hand, as already mentioned in Star Wars, it is easy to get tempted by the dark side of email communication. So, I want to elaborate a little on the negative aspects of email communication.

One of the biggest draw-backs of email is the time that we waste during our daily work hours to read, write, parse, sieve and classify the emails we get or send during the day. We are dealing with emails send to or received from other colleagues, different projects, external customers and have to process those because often we are expected to provide feedback or answer them or do something with them.

I mentioned earlier that reaching as many people as I want is a positive thing but will also come in the negative. Well, here is the reason: do you receive a lot of emails where you are in CC (which means carbon copy, although there is no carbon involved anymore) while you don’t have any clue what to do with the information, what the information means to you or what you are supposed to do with it?

So, it is a total waste of time, as you had to read it, discover that it is not important for you and classify it, archive it or throw it away. All this may take you up to 1 minute or more. Do this for 30 mails a day and you have wasted half an hour a day (1/2 day per week, 2 days per month). Imagine what productive work you can do with 16 hours more per month?

Even though the rule of being in CC is that it’s just informational, we tend to respond to them and even making it worse by carbonizing additional people that we think should be informed. Or we FYI others who will have an even more difficult time to follow up on these emails as they are not in the loop of the whole conversation.

The time we spend on reading and scanning the emails needs to be increased with the time the email interrupt takes us to get back to what we have been doing before receiving the communication. We are interrupted in our train of thoughts, in our development work or testing work or any other value added work we were doing before receiving this “piece of information”.

In my research towards this blog, I created a mind map with many more things that I wanted to bring up in this article, but my editor wanted me to keep it short. So, maybe I will continue my pro’s and con’s list in a next blog.

And contrary to emails, a blog is not forced on you. You have the choice to read it or not. You can decide if you want to tune in for the next blog article. And hopefully, the URL to this blog article was not sent to you by email. So, it’s time for me to bring this to a closure.

As I already hinted at in the introduction, I will not be able to provide you with a definite answer to the question, if emails are a blessing or a curse. I do want to take the opportunity to tell you that emails are not always the solution to everything. I admit, it is tempting to keep answering each email you get with an email. Try to break that circle, grab a phone or connect via chat or walk over to the person to talk face-to-face.

Turn the curse into a blessing…. you have the power to change your own behavior and maybe, just maybe, also the behavior of others. Try it out…you will soon notice that your inbox get less clutter and more to the point emails.