Managing email is often subject to contradiction:
1. It is the solution to all problems, saves money, saves time and makes everyone so happy they want to high-five each other.
2. It is a burden that even Hercules would call in sick to avoid.
Obviously both those statements contain a little hyperbole, but in the age of email there aren’t many of us who haven’t come unstuck because someone else has the crucial email stuck in their [inaccessible] inbox. Even here at the Information Management Service we face the many headed Hydra that is the email inbox.
The trick to successful email management is to find a middle ground (preferably closer to the first view than the second!) where your colleagues don’t mind filing things, and don’t see it as an extra thing on the ‘to do’ list. With email this can seem near impossible because it requires the action of moving the email to another location into whatever system or drive you use to share your business information. It all comes down to being able to demonstrate that actively managing email is worthwhile and not at all like the aforementioned Hydra.
“BUT HOW?” you cry… or at least mutter in the generally accepted resignation of information managers the world over. Well there’s a lot to be said for the carrot rather than the stick. Leading with the benefits (e.g. how much faster information can be found across teams). It’s worth finding out how users currently manage emails and understand what they need to enable them to get emails out of inboxes and into shared systems.
Sometimes this will be with aid of tools, but most of the time it’s about motivation. Get users to try out different ways of managing emails to show them that it can be done, and isn’t as bad as it seems. Keeping them engaged will show that you’re trying to help not hinder them.
There is of course the stick of compliance and legislative requirements for those that don’t want to engage. What shape that stick is, how big, and how often it’s used are really dependant on the organisation. But you must be prepared to use it because the results of not being able to find all the emails could be significant.
Clearly only a minority will find filing emails pleasing as an isolated activity. But if an organisation reinforces a negative association with it; users are basically given license to ignore policies and best practice and carry on doing whatever they want.
But the net result of having email managed properly is immeasurable better than the alternative. If you can get users to think positively about managing emails, whilst may be not inclined to high-five each other, they will be significantly more productive and less likely to ignore the inbox in favour of taking Cerberus for a walk