Working effectively without relying on email?   Not possible?   Think again.

Much of the communications done in email is conversational —  a short question, a brief response.  Workers spend inordinate parts of their workday scanning through fractured email chains for information.  But enterprise-ready tools to better enable this mode of conversational communication has become available in recent months.

There have been many effective Web 2.0 collaborative tools available in themarket for some time, but one area that was missing that can impact the overuse of email for brief communications:enterprise tools with the micro-blogging conversational style commonly available in Twitter. While the consumer world is familiar with FriendFeed or the wall of FaceBook, the enterprise can take advantage of such tools as Google Buzz or SocialWok in the business world.

Kimind has been a strong supporter reducing the impact of email overuse since 2000, and within the last few months, we realized is now possible to eliminate email use.   Kimind implemented two separate projects in mid-2009 deploying a full-range of collaborative tools that form the base of enterprise 2.0.   After several months of use, we were struck by the fact that some members of these working groups were no longer using at all the email to communicate with each other.   No more email! These projects are now actually email-free!

This transition was noticed when other users of the work groups,who were not using the conversational tools had not yet taken that step, noticed that they were not getting responses to their emails.  Those using the tools indicated they were not consulting their mailboxes anymore: the discussions between project members were now all produced in centralized and shared conversational tool, visible to all.They were spending long hours searching for information across fractured email chains. Most importantly, the value of group work, was produced, distributed and processed in a collaborative way in online office suite or in the wiki.   Editorial review and comments on these shared documents was conducted in the conversational tool.

So the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is YES! It is now possible to be email-free!  Email-free at least in the internal functioning of a working group.  This trend can become a major advance for individual and collective productivity, as well as for the capitalization of expertise and knowledge of the organization.

How to become e-mail free?

  • use a collaborative online office suite for designing  your documents (word processing, spreadsheets, forms, etc. …) in real-time
  • use a wiki as project portal, where all the informations of your project will be consolidated, produced and / or bounded. Where any group member or any new entrant may be referenced at any time to find the information he wants.
  • use a conversational tool, at least a tool for micro-blogging visually managing lines of discussions in order to facilitate discussions in real time (as FriendFeed initiated and gradually becomes the implicit norm of conversational tools business, cf. screenshot above).

For example, in Kimind here are the collaborative infrastructure that we use:

  • Google Apps: for collaboration online —  shared, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, calendars, collaborative workspaces (wikis), chat, and forms (invitations to events, surveys).  Everything  produced is historicised  (complete document versioning, wikis, chats, etc),  so perfectly capitalized and  secure.   These tools replaces email exchanges about documents and emails use for transferring files from one individual to another.  Google Apps emails becomes a tool to handle email communication to external parties outside the workgroup or company.
  • SocialWok: for the micro-blogging and the conversational, fully integrated with Google Apps, and to start a conversation about any document created in Google. Replaces all email exchanges to discuss around a document or an information.
  • Highrise: for CRM, to retain the history of all conversations and actions about a customer. All customer information is consolidated in one place, more internal circulating email  about this.
  • Diigo: a tool for social bookmarking, allowing the group to ensure a daily collaborative , and also to benefit all our members and readers. More bookmarks emails exchanged with clutter.
  • WordPress for our website for managing both institutional pages, blog posts and simple contact forms.

Become email free — get out of the vicious circle of the workday driven by the arrival of emails.Work is done done by project context, with users being able to determine the time slots allocated to a particular activity.   Individuals can increase their efficiency and productivity, since they no longer need to spend hours organizing the information received by email.   It is already organized.

Becoming  email-free, is to access to a new way of organizing work, that  will be our future way of working for all.