Blogger: Bill Pray
E-mail is often fingered as the main culprit in contributing to information overload. The previous post by Craig Roth explains that most of the material produced on information overload “overstates the problem while understating the solution.” More importantly, Craig makes a call-to-action to consider what to actually do about information overload. An article from Computerworld yesterday highlights one CIO’s efforts to do something about information overload by tackling e-mail first.
In the article, CIO Tony Murabito of Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. explains how the investment of $50,000 in “training employees how to better use one of the basic tools of the modern office” is paying off. I applaud the effort and would like to add the following observations:
- While the goal of cutting e-mail traffic by 25% gives the organization a target, it could be a problem in that it is a number and numbers don’t take into account the content and importance. Perhaps a better goal would be to focus on the efficient use of e-mail that eliminates unnecessary traffic as defined by business use cases. While this is harder to measure than 25%, it does change the focus from a number to efficiency.
- Some of the e-mail regime bullets are “menial” (as Craig describes in his post): Putting non-business related messages on the corporate intranet, limiting send to all capability, stopping acknowledgment of CCs, and stopping the sending e-mails that say “Thanks” may be helpful - but the impact is limited.
- The other e-mail regime bullets are good: Effective use of the subject line, adopting the ABC format (action, background, close) for e-mails, increasing the in-box refresh interval, and routing e-mails to folders other than the in-box.
- The productivity and ROI numbers are interesting, but one has to be careful. These are soft ROI numbers in that they are nearly impossible to actually measure. The estimated recovery of 15 to 20 days per employee annually is just that – an estimate – and there is no guarantee that the employee will use that time to be “more productive.”
- The increased performance of e-mail system is something that can be measured and provides solid justification for the business case for the $50,000 spend.
- It is very important to have someone like Tony Murabito to champion the cause in the organization in order to make real change happen. Having the CIO involved in creating and backing the business case to tackle information overload is a key to success.
- Deleting e-mail is problematic. Archiving with tiered storage is better. Over time, best practices from the e-mail regime will help eliminate the need for the e-mail deletion policies as described in the article.
- Learning from the effort is fantastic – Tony’s takeaway that better document management tools are needed show that the information overload problem extends beyond just e-mail.
Overall, Cubist Pharmaceuticals is good example of tackling the information overload problem head-on and actually doing something about it - and a good place to start is e-mail.