Talking is better than email

Many people feel that the best form of communication is to talk to each other, ideally face to face. That’s why people have meetings after all, sometimes travelling long distances just for that “one meeting”.

I am not advocating that we should have more meetings, but the point is that having conversations to work out the best way forward is why we meet.  If people can’t do face a face to face meeting, a phone call often works, either a 1:1 call or a conference call. Getting hold of someone on the phone can often be difficult, because they are in too many meetings, right ?

If you work in an organisation that uses a system like Lync or Skype for business, that system will have a feature called “Presence”, which is why colour dots appear next to people’s names.

At a high level, the colours break down as Red for busy, Yellow for away, and Green for available, the presence light automatically changes when people are on the phone, or in a meeting.

The huge benefit to the presence indicator, is that you know if someone is available for a call before you call them. It’s like have a quick walk near their desk to see if you can catch a quick word.

At the Future Decoded Conference in London in 2014, one of the case studies was from Schroders who had rolled out Lync to their offices in UK and the USA. The project lead explained that having presence is one of the biggest benefits that the partners at Schrdoers found. By knowing in real-time, between continents and time zones, when people were online, logged in and available for a phone call led to the elimination of “voicemail tennis”, and made the communications became much more efficient.

schroders

When you start using a system like Lync or Skype for Business, there is a wealth of functionality available, but I would rate presence top of the list.

The other key benefit; Instant messaging

Instead of phoning up your contact everytime you want to speak to them, another method can be to send a short instant message which will appear on their screen, examples of when this can be useful are; or “When can we catch up on Project Titan”, or “Do you know the dress code for next weeks conference”. When the contact receives your message, you can see that they are typing a reply in real time. Because the communication is 2-way we are getting to a resolution quickly, and it’s almost like having a real conversation.

Lots of people don’t use instant messaging and fall back to email because they don’t know any different. By falling back to email we leave the prioritisation of our communications to chance as I have described in my previous post Email is stupid.

By getting your teams to start using the presence indicator and using instant messaging then you are cutting down some of your email usage and taking control of the prioritisation of your messaging. More importantly, you are getting to a resolution of a conversation faster, it’s simply good business.

Lots of businesses collaborate on projects, and the faster that project teams can work together the better, by sharing your presence information to partner organisations, you will up the  efficiency of communication between all members of your project teams and  you will get more done more quickly.

Your teams might already have the technology in place, but if you don’t ensure that they know how to use it and lead by example, then your not running your teams as well as you could be, and your competitors might be working in this faster way already.

Email is stupid

Just imagine if your mobile phone rang every time someone sent you an email.

I would look at the caller-id of the incoming call and if I didn’t know the caller probably hit reject. I’d last about an hour before I would switch my phone off if I didn’t throw it against the wall first. The constant interruptions of people that you probably don’t know, expecting to speak to you at a time of their convenience interrupting what you are doing would drive me nuts.

This photo shows when I last tried the experiment….

From the story above, if you swop the mobile phone for “your inbox”, the story describes one of the places where email is broken, and that is why email is stupid.

Email doesn’t recognise when your boss is asking you for adjustments on the big proposal that you have been working on. To your inbox, that message is just as important as that sales email from a company that you don’t know, trying to sell you something that you don’t need.

I know we can setup email rules to flash up an alerts from specific people, or move emails to different folders to attempt to triage the emails into some sort of priority, but just setting up those rules is beyond most of us.

Lots of companies have tried different ways of fixing that problem. Microsoft latest attempt is called Clutter, which moves the so called “grey mail”, into an area that is essentially the middle ground, between spam and an important email.

Over time, we will see if Clutter improves the situation, but I bet you that it isn’t going to be perfect.  What would *really* make a difference to the problem of email being stupid is not to use it for everything.

One of my favourite acronyms is P.I.C.N.I.C.

This stands for “Problem In Chair Not In Computer”, which essentially means that the computer is doing what it’s told and it’s the person using the computer that is the problem.  You could very much apply that to how we use email today.

 

Picnic

If we use email for everything, then it is not surprising that it doesn’t work very well, it is stupid after all.

You could really help yourself and your company if you start thinking about using communication techniques other than just email, so if we acknowledge that we are part of the problem and that we want to work smarter by not just relying on email, then where do we start ?

Learning what is available and embracing change is a good start, and I will be sharing what I’ve found in my future posts….

What is this blog about ?

Hi, my name is Scott Jackson, and I am going to be sharing what I know about using different software tools to help you out.

After spending years pushing new ways of working with different software tools, I have decided to share my experiences online to a wider audience. I have gained a lot of my information from reading other people’s contributions, I’ve helped others in closed collaborations spaces inside and outside the organisations where I work and I’ve presented at seminars, but in the spirit of “working out loud” here I am.

Why now ?

On May 22nd 2015, Simon Terry started this post on the global Office 365 Yammer network, thanking change agents worldwide for doing what we do, in the post Simon, tagged some people calling them out for a “pat on the back”, and encouraged other to do the same. I was tagged later that day, and I wrote this reply.

yammerpost1333

In my reply, I called out Matt Partovi. I have met Matt a few times at events in London. In true style, Matt replied back to everyone with a gift of his favourite song, and a challenge to us all of “Is there anything else we could be doing”.

I replied back that I was going to start communicating to the people outside of those closed platforms.

I paid for this domain the same day and I figured out how to write blog content in OneNote and join it to WordPress by this helpful article.

Three months later, I am on holiday reading the excellent book “Working out loud” by John Stepper which explains the thinking behind sharing the work that you do. The book is truly inspiring.  Here is my tweet about the book.

One of the most touching stories in the book is about how 4 year old girl called Alex started a lemonade stand to raise money for kids that have cancer.  That action by Alex created a movement that has now raised over $100million dollars.  I donated $5 into the jar while just while reading the book, you could donate as well via www.alexslemonade.org.

As part of the Working Out Loud book, you are asked to list out blog subjects and put it into something like the excellent Wunderlist app, I have copied my current list below.

I am back from holiday, and I have got that first post out, so let’s see how this works.

Cheers

Scott

You will find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.