As has been said by futurists and Silicon Valley hipsters, "Email is where good ideas go to die." But so far, email is still here (so are plenty of good ideas, by the way), and it seems to be as strong as ever. Arguments about whether email is good or bad or whether it should be eliminated or remain forever can been seen carried out in the press and on blogs with a simple Google search. And as the existential debate about email rages on, a rare clear voice emerged last fall at WebSummit 2016. Sean Ryan, VP of Workplace by Facebook strolled on past the debate by saying the argument is not that interesting. "Email is going to die anyway. Anyone with teenagers knows this. They don't use email."
Although I lean towards the kill email camp, I believe the problem is that many of the arguments for or against email are emotional and vague. From those for killing email, I want to hear specific alternatives for communicating with colleagues and customers. From those email hangers on, I want to hear specifics about how to bring people together around ideas at work to improve products or the customer experience without excluding the right people and including those that do not need to be involved.
The intent of this blog is not to argue for or against email, but to offer a few specifics about how I use Workplace for the majority of my communications with ServiceRocket colleagues, and in some cases with customers. I will begin by sharing my email usage stats to give you some context.
Here is a summary of email usage stats from February 2017.
My email usage stats
Anecdotally, I noticed that I was using email less because most of what I was doing for work and communications was done in Workplace. And in some cases, when someone sent me an email, I would reply in Workplace. But just because it "feels" like I am using email less, does not mean that I am.
So I ran the numbers.
Of all emails I receive, 57% are from external domains and 43% from servicerocket.com. That's OK, I guess, but here is where it gets interesting. Of the emails I send, 68% are to external domains and only 32% are sent to servicerocket.com. And when I scroll through my email sent folder, using the technical "eyeball test," many of the sent emails that include ServiceRocket employees also include customers and partners. So, at least some of the 32% of emails that I send are to domains outside of ServiceRocket. Effectively, the percentage of my total emails sent to ServiceRocket employees is some number less than 32% of all my sent emails.
Maybe a 68% to 32% email ratio means I am slowly killing my email. Maybe it means most of my job deals with communicating with people outside of servicerocket.com. One thing it does show is that I choose to send fewer emails internally, as a proportion of emails I receive from ServiceRocket employees.
In just one example of how I choose to send few emails internally than I receive; twice in February, someone from ServiceRocket (I choose not to embarrass my colleague in public) sent me an email to request a time to chat about a project. In both cases, I replied to that person in Workplace, instead of replying to the email.
Take that, email.
How I use Workplace instead of email
You might be wondering how I communicate with colleagues on Workplace, instead of email.
Here are just a few examples.
Don’t just post, but ask: First of all, when I need to send a message, I ask myself, "Where should I put this? What do I want to achieve by sharing this? Is there a call to action? Do I want feedback? Do I want people to share or use the information in some way?" These questions make it a conscious decision to use Workplace instead of email. My instinct is still to use email. New habits take time. So I am deliberate.
Brainstorm ideas: I frequently use Workplace to brainstorm ideas. I can post a question in a group and fill it with ideas then ask others to pile on. This works well because people I would not have thought to include on an email can contribute. Out of the blue, people comment on the post offering their ideas.
Publish meeting notes: An hour ago (I wrote this on Wednesday, March 14), I had a meeting with a customer. After the meeting, I posted the meetings notes and action items on a document that is posted in a Workplace Multi-Company Group that we share with our customer. Almost all communications we have with that customer (and others) is in a Workplace group. No need to email meeting notes. Or for that matter, send this customer any email. Ever.
Prepare your meeting agenda: Sometimes I need help creating a meeting agenda. When I do, I can create a poll in a group and allow members of the meeting to contribute agenda items. Anyone in the group can add items to the poll and also vote on the agenda items. It helps us prioritize and focus our meeting on what's important.
You don't have to work out loud: Not everything needs to be "out there." When I need to send an individual, private message, I use Work Chat to send direct messages to people.
A picture says a thousand words: Instead of text, post a picture or a screenshot to describe a problem. A few times, I have taken a screenshot of something on our website or on a competitor site and used the Work Chat mobile app to draw on the image to call out something and ask the team to comment on it.
Save it for later: Sometimes I do not have time to read everything...especially the live videos we do a lot of around here. So I make a post or video using the "Save Post" feature, so I can watch it later, When teammates share important updates and articles. The "Save Post" option lets you keep track of the post for future communication and review.
It's all just communications
I prefer to communicate on Workplace in the above ways because it is easier, there is more context to conversations, and it is much more inclusive. But in the end, it is all just communicating with others. We can do that on Workplace, by email, by fax, by letter, and by walking down the hall to talk to someone face to face.
See Workplace in Action
If you would like to learn more about what is possible in Workplace and see the product in action, join one of our Jam Sessions, called Workplace: Start Here. We run these sessions weekly and we show what is possible in Workplace and how you can use it in your organization to improve communications, bring people together, and get more done. Plus, these sessions are open, so you can ask as many questions as you want. Join one now.