How we have (almost) killed email

Initially hailed as a cheaper way for people to communicate – a killer app invented in the 90s, email is now considered a chore. The more organised of us block out periods of time in our day to tackle them with the goal of ‘inbox zero’ – apparently a metric of productivity.

Perhaps you are the person that uses your inbox for task management, compared to the rest of us disorganised mortals that use it for its true purpose – to send NSFW memes to our work buddies. If you fall into the former camp, you’re probably asking yourself what’s the problem with email? After all it’s universal, reliable and free. What’s not to like?

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As you might have picked up from earlier posts, we heart data. We capture and measure all the activities we do day in day out to ensure we’re doing the ‘highest value productive activities’ – or what we call HVAs.

To remind me of what my HVAs are in my business right now, I’ve pinned this message on my desk:  

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As we chase growth, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks that consume those precious hours of value creating time.

And what is the biggest time waster of a business?

Email

According to a survey conducted by Officetime, E-mail is the number 1 time killer, followed closely by meetings. I don’t think anyone is surprise by those statistics.

Thinking back to corporate life, the volume of emails going through my inbox was insane. I would average about 60 a day – most of which were internal. Emails like updates on new policies and procedures, emails from the marketing department to ‘share’ and ‘tweet’ newsletters …the list goes on.

And let’s not forget the person that hits ‘Reply All’ to a firm wide message with a “Thankyou and Noted” response. Kill me now.

We’re continually streamlining our business and always think about how we keep admin to an absolute minimum. Here are the tools we use to kill emails.

1. Internal communication – SLACK

Slack has fundamentally changed the way we run our business. For those who have been sleeping under a rock, Slack is a modern team communication tool that consolidates and simplifies day to day communication. It makes past conversations discoverable with search and is very intuitive in sharing information and knowledge. Yes it’s so popular our very own PM is using it.

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Slack’s motto is #deathtoemail – and it has done exactly that. We use Slack for all our internal discussions, job specific project management and general HR functions. We liaise with our virtual teams on a daily basis and have created separate channels within our organization for different discussions.

There’s a different feel to a Slack conversation compared to email. Emails seem to encourage long, detailed messages with all the formalities included. Slack conversations have more of a “chat room” style, where concise messages are encouraged. This helps us get straight to the point of issues without having a reason to with begin and end with formalities such as “Hi”, “Hello” “Kind regards” “Best Wishes” etc.

I have four Slack accounts for different projects in my life at the moment. I was considering setting one up for my Family – but I think Mother would be very unimpressed at that thought.

2. External communication – INTERCOM

Intercom is by far the most valuable SaaS we use in our backend system. Intercom is a platform which centralizes all external communication so that our team can communicate with our customers – at scale.

Again, the virtual environment we operate in requires us to be super effective communicators with our clients. The feature we love about Intercom is the ability automate messages with triggers – such as when clients sign up with us online and when we ask for feedback. The ability to contain a complete record of all the correspondence with had with each customer is also great to quickly get to root of any miscommunication.

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3. Task Management – ASANA

Asana is the ultimate task management tool. It allows teams to share, plan, organise, and track progress of the tasks that each member is working on. If you are the person that uses to email for task management, you can forward actionable emails to Asana and turn them into tasks to be completed.

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We use Asana for our ‘working ON business’ tasks, as well as other projects and my personal life. I’ll share our ‘working IN business’ tools in a separate post.

Final thoughts

My personal view is that Email will eventually die as we continue to adopt instant messaging within Apps. From social apps like Facebook, Twitter though to Enterprise tools like Slack, Intercom, Sales Force and Base. The largest benefit that I see using in app messaging is the data you can collect. We all use Google Analytics to measure website traffic – have you ever considered measuring many times those prospects and clients read your emails and/or downloaded that report?  How about A/B testing your client proposals?