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The only use case for ESN that you will need

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If you are the average knowledge worker, you spend 25-30 percent of your workday on email related tasks (McKinsey). 7 percent of the emails you receive at work is spam or junk mail. Another 11 percent is personal or non-work-related. 66 percent of all emails come from colleagues, and a large amount of those emails are most likely irrelevant or of little importance to you and can be categorized as occupational spam (Mimecast). In addition, you spend about two hours per day on being interrupted and trying to refocus (Intel). The time you spend on managing all these emails, or looking for information that you cannot find, is often said to amount to a day or so per week. It is safe to say that email has become the no 1 productivity drain in a lot of organizations today.

Let's look at just one way, one use case, how enterprise social networking can help to change this situation.

There is a Swedish proverb that, directly translated, goes like this:  “A place for each thing and each thing in its place.” The rather obvious meaning is that to keep things in order, you first need to have a place for each and every thing, and then you need to put each thing in the place where it belongs.

Although originally meant for physical things, it is also highly relevant when it comes to communication within enterprises. With massive amounts of occupational spam, people complaining about information overload and to be drowning in their inboxes, we can’t just blame it on the sheer volume of information. Something must be wrong in how we try to keep things in order.

Just as this Swedish proverb states, there are two sides of the coin that we need to address:

  • The tools, ensuring that we have one place for each thing
  • Our behaviors, ensuring that we put each thing in its own place

We obviously need to work with both these if we want to break the tyranny of email, but let's just take a look at the tools for now.

As I have previously written in the post “Email is the biggest productivity drain”, the combination of email overuse and the way email is designed that makes the effort of keeping things in order overwhelming. All sorts of emails end up in your inbox and there is no easy way for you to filter out what is relevant and what is not, or what context an email belongs to. It is entirely up to you as the receiver of an email, not the sender, to add structure to the communication (see illustration below). It is also you who will need to deal with the chaos in your inbox that this lack of communication structure leads to when you get emails from all kinds of people about all kinds of things. As if that is not enough, this work has to be done by every individual in your organization, generating enormous amounts of waste.


Let’s contrast this with how you would communicate and share things with your colleagues on an enterprise social networking platform. Then, you would either associate the communication to a social object, a space such as a group or community, and/or tags that in some way reflect what the communication (information being shared) is about. Any further communication and information shared will then keep this association. It will have a context, a home. Other people can choose whether or not to take part in the communication process, thereby getting the chance to improve the signal-to-noise ration as they can avoid receiving a lot of irrelevant information and can pick and choose from relevant information flows. Since it is the sender that associates the information that is shared with a context, it is the sender that applies structure to the communication (see illustration below).


As you can figure out, huge amounts of waste can be eliminated this way. If you need a use case that motivates an investment in enterprise social networking, this is the only one you need. It will also help you focus your efforts on making people change their existing habits and adopt a smarter way of communicating. You can build your business case entirely on this use case, and perceive all other use cases that you can find as a bonus.
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