The Social Business revolution is here. We are living in a new world and one of the ‘old’ relics being under attack is email. Email a relic?? Yes in the eyes of some, it is outdated and in need of retirement. Nowadays it’s all about new forms of communication. more direct, more interactive, less static…and all kinds of initiatives like ‘Global No Email Day‘ and IBM’s ‘OutsideTheInbox‘ are started to get people to realize this.
I can totally relate to this idea. Mainly because it seems that lately it isn’t us that is consuming mail but the mail that is consuming us. More importantly: consuming our time.
Ok, so I agree, but then I started thinking. How many mails do I actually get in a day…..?
I’ve got 5 email addresses. One for work, one for friends, one for non-work-non-friend related stuff I deem important and 2 for spam. I use those last two when I need to register on some obscure site and I never check those two unless I’m looking for something specific. So those don’t really count towards my email consumption. The other three gave me a total of 12 messages today, 7 of which were notifications from other systems.
Now that isn’t extreme! That is actually pretty low if you consider I work in IT and was working at home today. I know people that get hundreds of messages, especially while working at home. So why don’t I? Does this mean I don’t work, don’t communicate…..?? No, I actually communicated with several of my colleagues and customers today as well as had interactions with several people around the globe. So lets analyze this….
I started the day with an email notification from Quickr about a document I’d put up for review. It was reviewed by a customer in the USA and she’d updated the document in the Quickr environment and used the notification option to let me know. As I noticed the customers project leader was online on Greenhouse Sametime I used this to have a short discussion about the review.
I then proceeded with opening our new IBM Connections test environment that we set up specifically for demonstrations to customers. To get some filling all employees were asked to fill out their own fictional profile as well as provide some fake content. While doing this I noticed some problems with the test installation. Instead of using mail I put a message on the Administrators notice board, telling him about the problem.
He responded back on the board which was promptly shown in my Status Update widget in my Lotus Notes client.
Now I could just as easily have used our internal Tweet application as well but as it was Connection related it seemed logical to respond within the environment itself. Using mail didn’t cross my mind once.
Roughly at the same time I was invited into a Skype call by another customer. During this call I had to verify something with a co-worker and with a Partner of us. So I used LotusLive Sametime to connect to my co-worker and set up a second Skype chat to ask my partner contact. He wasn’t up yet (Canadian) so I just left him a message in his chat to pick up when he returned.
While all this was going on I was also setting up a test environment for a migration project. It was not exactly going as planned and I used Twitter and Facebook to vent some of the frustrations with getting the thing to work. Apart from the fact this helped me to vent some of my frustration it also delivered a handy tip from a guy that responded to my tweet and sent me a helpful link.
Through the social media app I use I also noticed a new invitation request on LinkedIn that turned out to be a business relation that wanted to connect. As I’d been wanting to talk to this person for a while I used the opportunity to send him a direct message in LinkedIn and set up a phone call.
For the rest of the day I made several phone calls to customers & relations, used text messaging to make an appointment with a good friend, had a lengthy call with a co-worker on the server I was trying to set up and congratulated my niece with her birthday on Facebook.
So looking back on my day and talking about the ‘Less mail’ initiatives, I can honestly say I’m actually doing pretty well already. I’m not email-free yet (nor do I want to be, there’s always something that is better done through mail) but in general I can definitely say I’m not being consumed by my inbox.
There is however another side to this. Remember that Skype chat I started with the Canadian guy that wasn’t online yet? He did get back to me but by that time it was evening here. And that is the whole crux in this story….
Because one of the downsides of using more interactive forms of communications like Social Media, Skype and Sametime is that it is stretching my day. Timezone differences mean I have to adept to other peoples day regimes if I want to speak, chat, Sametime or Skype with them and that means I tend to spend a lot more time at night behind my laptop, sometimes stretching well into the night.
So are these forms of social communications the future? Yes, definitely! It allows you to not just communicate but to really build a relation with the other person, something that email just didn’t do. But I don’t think it will put email out of business yet. If not for the fact that lots of people still are hooked on mail then for the sanity of those that need to sleep….
In Lotus Notes version 8 the Recent Contacts functionality was added. Users love it but for administrators it can be a bit of headache.
The problem is that it adds all recipient and sender addresses to the Recent Contacts list. Not just external contacts but also internal contacts; those that are in the central organizations Directory (NAB). Now for years I’ve been hammering my users NOT to add those internal contacts to their personal address book (PAB). Why? Well because deletions, renames and changes to the person documents in the central NAB are not automatically updated into their PAB as well. Causing the risk of addressing outdated addresses.
Anyone that did add names from the NAB into their PAB was fittingly chastised for doing so and got the “I told you so!” response when problems arose.
Not anymore…. Because with the addition of the Recent Contacts users don’t have to do anything anymore to get those internal contacts into their PAB. The Recent Contacts is part of the PAB and as soon as you address or receive a message the sender / recipient addresses are automatically added to the list. Causing a major headache for the administrator when he has to do a rename or remove a name from the NAB.
There are some options in the Preferences – Contacts section for the Recent Contacts functionality that influence what is put into it but nothing to exclude names from the NAB or any other central directory (secondary address books, Directory Assistance….).
Another problem is the totally nontransparent way in which Lotus Notes seems to resolve addressing. I’ve been doing some tests with different scenario’s and different settings and I’m still not sure I understand all the nooks and crannies that it has. Documentation on how it all works is scarce, especially when you throw things like secondary address books, directory Assistance and off-line laptop configurations into the mix.
So how to limit the downfall?
For now the best option seems to be to set the “Recipient name lookup” option in the location document of the client to “Exhaustively check all addressbooks” and the “Mail addressing” option to “Local then Server”. This won’t eliminate the problem of having wrong addresses in your Recent Contacts list but will make sure the system throws an error indicating it is finding more then one match and giving the user the opportunity to select the correct address.
Secondly it is worth while explaining to users what the Recent contact list is and how they can clean it up.
Luckily the new 8.5.2 version allows users to right click names in their Type ahead list and select ‘Delete’ right in the list to clean up wrong addresses but this still is far from ideal.
I’m not alone in being frustrated with this new functionality. Check out these suggestions on IdeaJam (idea1, idea2, idea3), Darren Duke’s blog and a Wiki on the Recent Contacts functionality for more information and let’s hope IBM comes up with some solution to make this function more admin-friendly soon.