According to the McKinsey Global Institute report The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technology, which uses IDC data, workers spend 28 per cent of their time reading, writing or responding to email.
If you took email away from lawyers they would feel less productive and isolated. This feeling would be a genuine reaction because over the last ten years Outlook has become the hub of productivity (ironically). I wrote about the changing role of email in business here. I guess you could say that a loss of productivity would be true of most people to begin with, however change is a-coming.
Now, I’m not saying that email is going to be die, because it won’t. It will always have a place in business, but perhaps more aligned to what it was designed to do. I firmly believe that much of the communication that happens over email can be considered a burden on an individual’s productivity and reduces an organisations ability to leverage its human network because it is mis-used as a tool.
What are my issues with email?
1. I am forced to action every item. This is a burden, even when it is a simple delete action.
2. Email is inherently insecure and you have no control over a message once it has been sent.
3. My mailbox is a information silo. This reduces discoverability and encourages a poor sharing culture.
4. It limits my ability to find information or experts because I have to know who to ask a question of.
5. Reply all. Need I say more?
So what are the alternatives? There are many out there but a secure enterprise collaboration platform like HighQ Collaborate (shameless plug) provides all the tools required to enhance many of the existing work practices that exist within law firms. Whether that be sharing a file securely with a client, creating a knowledge community, managing your matters or just encouraging a connected organisation.
So you have identified the type of technology (and I’m making the assumption it will work), but how do we reduce the dependance on email?
Firstly, it is important to note that reducing email is a by-product not an objective in itself. Secondly, organisational and human bad practices around email are so ingrained in existing work practices that reducing it may seem an impossible task. This is the biggest challenge and must be addressed for any social business initiative. My five steps for making a success of any social business initiative are:
1. Set sensible objectives.
2. Start small and be patient. Identify two pockets of the organisation: one that will prove to be a challenge, and the other who should just fly with it.
3. Identify champions and encourage the laggards.
4. Don’t start out to fail but equally don’t be scared to. Ensure you learn quickly. Fail > Learn > Implement
5. Iterate. Always. This isn’t a technology implementation project, this is shaping the way you run your business.