There has been much press reaction recently to Thierry Breton's plan to move internal communication in Atos (an major international consulting and technology company) away from email to social media-based solutions.
It is important to stress that his focus is on removing internal email‚ since he sees external email continuing to be play a key role. He points out that employees tend to be more casual when sending internal emails than they are with external ones, and this is one of the reasons email is becoming inefficient.
At Zipipop we have gradually been phasing out internal email since we started over four years ago: initially with Skype instant messaging, then via collaborative Google Docs, then with Yammer and Podio enterprise micro-blogging. And over the last year we have successfully transferred a large chunk of our client project collaboration into Yammer External Networks.
With internal micro-blogging the number of messages doesn't necessarily decrease, since knowledge sharing becomes easier; however, the messages tend to be shorter and easier to skim read. And there is also social pressure from the community to stay relevant, since these new workspaces are more transparent. And important messages can be highlighted by using the @person and #topic conventions that have been widely adopted from Twitter culture.
We don't knock email, it is a great tool — especially the way web-based services like Gmail handle it; and for a long time to come it will remain the initiating contact point for new clients and projects. But once you have made the crossover to collaborative work spaces you will definitely want to reduce your email activity. One additional benefit of using social media is that those important emails standout more.
It is crucial that you don't start a group collaboration space before you have enough critical momentum — as it will appear inactive and unnecessary. We have recently developed some rule-of-thumb criteria to help decided when to make the critical switch from email chain to group collaboration space. If you are experiencing the following you should seriously consider some social media-based alternatives: there are more than 3 people in the email chain; you have more than 10 emails on the same subject; there are 2 or more project emails per day; the project is likely to go on for many months.
Starting a small group collaboration space can be undertaken with a bit of trial and error, however, when starting organizational wide social media collaboration you need to take some careful steps to ensure successful uptake. Assisting with the change management aspects of this process is a growing part of Zipipop's local and international activities — and we would be happy to guide if you are considering undertaking a social media collaboration adventure.
By combining world class, low cost, social media-based services, Richard von Kaufmann created a multi-organization collaboration space for the Finnish Ministry of Employment's OSKE programme. He is currently helping two new global clients with their social media collaboration strategies.