How many times has this happened to you?
You see an email about a task that needs completing. It seems urgent so being the savvy team player you are, you drop what you’re doing to get right on it. You do your research, source your resources, draft your files, plan the delivery, contact the relevant people, everything you need to do to boss this task.
You’re about 80% through dominating this job, feeling very efficient and slightly smug and then you see this:
“Don’t worry about project X, Terry’s already done it – didn’t you see the message? Thanks though.”
Turns out that the first email you saw was sent to multiple people a while ago and one of your colleagues has already completed it. You’re now demotivated, have a piece of work that will go unused and you’ve lost precious time you were using for other urgent and important tasks.
Duplication is a common theme across enterprises in any industry. With large workforces requiring a great deal of collaboration, but relying on old-fashioned communication tools, there is plenty of opportunity for proactive and productive workers to end up doing the same job at the same time.
Not only does this waste time, it causes confusion, re-opens closed cases and incurs productivity costs to the wider business. Not to mention it’s extremely demoralising to see your hard work become completely irrelevant just because you missed a message.
Improved communication is crucial in reducing the likelihood of duplication of effort, it can also be one of the leading causes. Most of business communication takes place through email and this is how most tasks are set. Despite our reliance, email is not built to sustain the demands of modern business, often causing more inefficiencies than it solves
Email aids duplication
E-mail is static; once it has been delivered, it will sit in your inbox regardless of what happens post-delivery. Effectively, every message you send or receive immediately becomes out of date as it can’t be changed – it’s a snapshot of a process. Often the only way to update an e-mail is to send a new email with new information to clutter the inbox; this is not an efficient system.
With most workers receiving over 120 email messages a day, it can be very easy to miss updated messages and logical email chains can be broken up in between other messages and spam. Sending more emails to undo previous ones just adds to the problem.
Email overload is a widely recognised annoyance within unified communications across businesses. More workers are adopting preventative measures to reduce the amount of time email distracts from their day to day roles; it can take as many as 16 minutes to fully recover your thought process after checking your emails. One of these methods incudes ignoring new emails and only checking your inbox a few times at scheduled points throughout the day. With multiple variables meaning emails may not be necessarily seen for hours at a time, it is unsurprising that duplication can occur within even the most organised and vocal of teams.
Whilst some use chat clients to provide a more immediate two-way conversation, this does not guarantee an escape from duplication. Messages can still be lost in busy communication channels, where the immediacy of replies can very quickly clear the screen, as well as the added distractions of file sharing and gifs.
Far too often are workers faced with the frustration of seeing a message, making a start on the actions and proactively completing the job, only to be told that it’s no longer relevant.
We are commonly warned of the dangers of enterprises relying on outdated analytics and data as this leads to inaccuracies and can damage a business’s competitive edge. The same is true of email communication; using out of date information in an old email reduces the efficiency of teams, resulting in errors and resource drains such as duplication of previously completed work.
A case study in Change Management:
Change approvers have very important decisions to make and they need to have access to valid data in order to make fast, efficient and data-driven decisions.
Some approval requests need support from multiple change approvers, whereas others just need one response, but can be sent to multiple people.
Many of these approvals are communicated via email, triggered by a business’s ITIL change management software or service management system. If each approval creates at least one email (not including follow-up emails regarding additional information, appeals, escalations and status updates), the average change approver is likely to have a frustratingly overloaded inbox making them vulnerable to duplication.
For example, a single change request email that requires one response can be sent to 50 approvers. Once an approver replies, that leaves 49 now redundant emails sat in 49 inboxes. The messages are taking up space and can be misinterpreted by approvers who do not realise the action has been completed. If even 10 workers see this old message, log into the ITIL service management system, source the request, realise it’s completed and then go back and check/remove the message, that’s 10 workers wasting their time.
Multiply this by however many requests an enterprise can receive daily and this inefficiency adds up to a considerable drain from workers who could be doing other things to drive the business forward, but are stuck researching requests that were approved hours ago.
Unsurprisingly, an improved method of communication is the most effective way to reduce the probability of workers mirroring work that has already been completed. In order to do that, work communication tools need to be more intelligent than they currently are. They need to react to the real-time changes that occur in the fast pace of digital business.
Your messages should be reactive and adapt to changes. If a message is no longer relevant to a user, it shouldn’t remain in the inbox, but be archived away. If a task’s status updates or new information is added, users shouldn’t need to send and receive yet another email. Tasks that generally include multiple action shouldn’t result in endless email chains to scour through. Workers shouldn’t need to log in to a third-party system to see the progress of an action based in the software they use every day.
Businesses need communication that meets the demands of the variable, ever-changing digital world. With smarter communication bringing efficiency and automation, workers can be confident the information they have is relevant and current, enabling them to focus on the actions that need their attention and reducing the frustrating and costly problems that stem from needless duplication. It’s the 21st century, if a lamp can react to the changes light, why can’t our emails, upon which we rely to get things done, be as smart?
If you’re ready for a better way, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.