At a recent client workshop the topic of information flow came up. Basically the discussion was around how information is handled via email versus how it is handled via a collaboration platform. The issue was that if a collaboration platform sends notifications for every action, every activity, and every comment that someone creates then doesn’t that actually make the email problem worse? How can a collaboration platform help employees manage the information that gets sent to their inboxes every few minutes?
Before we get into that let’s take a step back and focus on email by itself. Now the issue with email is that information is force fed to you. If someone has your email address and wants to send you information then there really isn’t much you can do about it (in the context of co-workers or peers). Email is pretty the much the equivalent of a television ad for many employees, intrusive, and not always paid attention to. But the issue of being force fed information is very real. For example if corporate communications wants to send out a newsletter, guess what, you’re going to get it.
If a co-worker has a question…email
If you’re getting invited to a meeting…email
If someone wants to assign a task to you…email
If someone needs to share a document with you…email
If someone on your team is responding to a group email you’re also going to get an…email
If revisions or comments are being made to a document or other piece of information…email
It’s easy to see why our inboxes get flooded, and this is just from our co-workers sending us stuff. We also get plenty of emails from customers, spam emails, and personal emails.
One of the biggest misconceptions that corporate communication teams have is that if they send a newsletter, that everyone at the company is going to get it. Let’s remember that just because an email is sent doesn’t mean it is going to get read!
Now let’s look at how a collaboration platform can help manage the information flow more effectively. As I mentioned above many collaboration platforms send an email every time some activity or action takes place. That’s not really a big issue though because you can simply control that or turn off the notifications. Where many collaboration platforms excel is in the area of filters and notifications. Think of the simple social network capability that so many of us our familiar with, “following” someone or “adding them as a friend.” Now imagine being able to extend that type of functionality not just to people but to information, documents, tasks, groups, and anything else that you need. Add to that the ability to follow specific topics or tags and you have quite an effective filtering and notification system.
As an employee you select and control the information you receive so that it is relevant to you and you also control how often you want to receive that type of information. So if you’re on the marketing team you might only be interested in what is happening with your colleagues and the projects in that department. But, you also have the option to follow people or information that comes from sales, product development, corporate communications, or any other department. Every individual controls what it is they want to get information around, when they get it, and how they get it. This is just not something that email can do.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Collaboration platforms also help with many of the other issues that email cannot. For example finding subject matter experts or getting the latest version of a document. Collaboration platforms empower employees to be more self-sufficient without having to rely on email for everything but that’s probably a topic for another blog post.