Email, is it a dying medium?

Email, the de-facto communication vehicle of the modern world, is losing its efficiency. Alas, the new wave of collaboration tools are not up to the task.

The Dude is back for another round. This time, he is ruminating about the effectiveness of email as a business interchange medium. He remembers the first time he had an email address in corporate America, it was a DECnet address on the WIP system where he was a process engineer. He thought it was so cool to have email, that he had arrived into a wondrous world.

Then he went to work for a real company that had Outlook and Exchange (woo hoo). Back in the hey days of 1998 or so, the Dude might have gotten 10 emails a week at his work account. Fast forward to today, and he averages 200 – 300 emails A DAY. Of these, some 100 or so are important enough to read and respond to. Since the Dude does have a full time job, as a Product Manager, he can’t keep up with this much correspondence. Naturally, the Dude doesn’t have an Administrative Assistant to filter, and respond to the low level messages, so he gets to wade into it deeply.

There is somewhat of a stasis where people who need an answer will either send an email a second time, or, better yet, they will call me. But some people get butt-hurt when the Dude doesn’t reply. Recently, the Dude had to defend himself from accusations from the VP of sales that he was “non-responsive” and that the team wasn’t confident in his abilities. Talk about a way to get the blood pressure up, that will do it.

This episode caused me to re-evaluate my email habits.

Email is an informational blast medium. I will read it, eventually. But unless you are my boss, or someone who I and working closely with on a project, I may not respond quickly. Or at all. Deal with it.

If you need an instantaneous response, or quicker action, DO NOT SEND AN EMAIL. DO NOT MARK IT URGENT. Walk to my office and darken the door. Call my office extension. Call my cell number. Use the internal instant messaging system. All of them will get a RIGHT NOW response. An email? It quickly falls below the fold and is forgotten.

If I am out of the office, and on vacation, I make sure that my OoO notification tells people that I will likely never read their email. Just being honest, and setting expectations.

If you pull some email out of the ether that is evidence that I “saw” your great business plan, I will open up my Outlook and show the “Unread mail” smart search that shows that I have 6,695 unread mails on my system. And that doesn’t count the annual archived PST files. No jury in the land is going to take your side.

Email’s time is done. Stick a fork in it. Burn it in effigy. Have a burial ceremony. A bonfire. Whatever, but if you need my attention, don’t use email (except you, boss).

What say you?

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