Love it or hate it, email is here to stay. This revolutionary technology has changed the way companies do business and with the advent of smartphones, its changed the way we live. Despite its success, email is still plagued with many problems spam, viruses, security issues, increasing storage costs and lack of reliability, but it still ranks as one of the most popular communication tools in the world.
A new crop of technologies dubbed Web 2.0 are changing the communication paradigm and transforming the way we communicate. Web 2.0 technologies allow users to not only access or view information on the Internet, they also allow for user participation. These technologies include social networking sites, blogs and wikis, which are replacing traditional software for collaboration and project management (PM).
As Thomas Claburn wrote: Email, the Internets killer app, is killing productivity. Even for workers who insulate themselves from pitches for porn and pills - up 59% in October from the previous month, according to email management company Postini - occupational spam takes a toll: Mailing list messages, workgroup updates, email alerts, and corporate communiqués demand attention, if not a reply. Dealing with email easily can become a full-time job. Heavy users receive 1,000 messages and 1,500 spam messages a week, estimates Richi Jennings, lead analyst with the email security practice at Ferris Research.1
Project managers who use email to manage projects have found it to be more of a headache than a killer app. The instantaneous nature of email is not compatible with the way most people work. Projects are not planned on the fly, budgets arent forecast or approved in a day, nor are major decisions made in a matter of minutes. Yet the very nature of email speeds everything up, and data as well as good decision-making can get lost in the shuffle.
Email Costs Businesses Time and Money
In 2008, almost 3 trillion emails will be sent worldwide, with only a very small percentage relevant to the tasks at hand. Junk email, malicious file threats and interpretation of wandering threads require time-wasting attention every day from every employee. Personal misuse of workplace email is also a rising problem. According to a 2005 survey by the American Management Association, 26 percent of employers have terminated employees for inappropriate use of email, a number thats certain to keep rising.2,3
Each year, businesses are spending increasing amounts of money to keep their electronic communications secure in an unending game of cat and mouse against malicious coders. Yet suspicious file detection software and tighter network controls many times will block all file attachments and filter legitimate messages. Sending file attachments through email also presents problems due to file size restrictions on many networks.
In addition, there are versioning issues, with critical data scattered in multiple subject threads with multiple senders in multiple inboxes on multiple hard drives and servers. Lost files, lost task assignments, lost action items, misinterpretation and delegation confusion are common. It is not difficult to come to the conclusion that email is a very poor planning tool. Countless hours are spent using email for project collaboration when in reality email was only designed for simple electronic text communication.
Top Ten Critical Email Problems
1. Lack of security.
2. Attachment problems.
3. Reliability problems.
4. Spam clutter.
5. Document version confusion.
6. Scattered data.
7. Unclear project direction.
8. Project status confusion.
9. Next step priority uncertainty.
10. Lack of accountability.
A solution may be to transition projects from email to Web 2.0 PM software, which increases the opportunity for project completion. When companies move away from using email as their main planning tool and their business-critical data is no longer scattered within multiple email inboxes and network hard drives, they will find it easier to access and locate important information.
Benefits of New Generation Collaboration Software
Companies realize the increasing demand in dealing with different channels of communications. The goal is to make communications a more productive and responsive working experience for all team members, and Web 2.0 technologies can do just that.
Because these technologies are accessed online and the software is hosted by providers, there are usually no maintenance issues and therefore little or no IT involvement. In addition, because they are available anywhere Internet access is available, team members do not have the specific physical location and computer system limitations found with traditional PM software.
Additional benefits of this new breed of Web-based collaboration software are impressive:
- Easy to use/lack of complexity,
- Lower cost,
- Data security,
- 24-hour availability,
- No IT involvement,
- Improved and effective communication,
- Increased productivity,
- Data security,
- Improved staff participation,
- Staff accountability and
- Resolved document versioning issues.
What to Look for in a Solution Provider
Most people just want to get their work done without struggling with complicated software. Because many employees and contractors have no formal training as professional project managers, they are left to use linear, static tools and processes in isolated meeting spaces without any relevant communication. Multitasking with inferior tools wastes time.
As there are many different types of collaboration tools on the market, companies should look for a software solution that offers features that provide all of the benefits listed above. Ideally, these would all be available in a single Web-based application, not requiring add-ons to provide functionality. While there are free to practically no-cost products available, companies should be judicious in their selection to ensure they receive the features and benefits suited for their needs.
In todays fast-paceed society, its also important that the software you select is accessible via the major mobile platforms.
It's All About Your Top Line
Enable your company to generate additional revenue by streamlining internal project planning processes in an efficient and coherent manner, providing your customers with confidence in your company's execution ability.
- Your company will be prepared with a detailed execution strategy versus your competition's disorganized model.
- Your detailed reporting mechanisms will prove to your internal team and customers that specific progress has been made on a project.
- Your clear and direct client interaction will further strengthen your working relationship and continue to build integrity, trust and accountability, and ultimately, will lead to more business.
It's All About Your Bottom Line
Operate your company efficiently and in a cost-effective way.
- Your company will reduce its infrastructure costs through a reduction in project manager personnel, hardware and software costs associated with maintaining multiple IT platforms.
- Your company will reduce its employee costs through a reduction in time spent learning and operating costly, complex and inefficient software programs and related applications.
- Your company will reduce general operating costs through the elimination of redundant in-person and telephonic meetings and inefficient report generation.
As weve discussed, Web 2.0 technologies are significantly different than their traditional email counterpart due to their interactive capabilities. Being able to collaborate on projects in a Web-based environment not only encourages creativity but is also empowering.
Companies in health care, consulting, software engineering, print media and publishing, travel, and entertainment have adopted Web 2.0 PM technologies to manage their projects successfully. Some companies have been able to increase their project completion rate by up to 95 percent utilizing Web 2.0 technologies.
Compared to traditional enterprise software, Web 2.0 technologies are relatively low in cost and easy to implement. Instead of investing in a costly enterprise application, companies are encouraged to experiment with smaller hosted Web 2.0 PM solutions that have the ability to scale. This is the most successful approach for companies that are still unsure of how Web 2.0 PM collaboration technologies will fit into their overall business strategy.
Dont be afraid to implement Web 2.0 PM solutions in your organization. These technologies have been well-tested and proven effective in providing real value to organizations worldwide. Go ahead - give your projects a boost. Youll be glad you did.
- Thomas Claburn. " Blogs and Wikis Move in as Email Overload Becomes Unbearable." Information Week, November 13, 2006.
- Anna Jane Grossman. " Experts Reveal Email Nightmares, Saftey Tips." CNN.com, 2008.
- American Management Association. "2006 Workplace E-Mail, Instant Messaging & Blog Survey: Bosses Battle Risk by Firing E-Mail, IM & Blog Violators." American Management Association, July 11, 2006.
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