Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

Summary: Atos to adopt social business practices and tools, implementing a 'zero email' policy to stop staff from sending unnecessary emails to each other

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TOPICS: Collaboration
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French technology company Atos has intentions to implement a "zero email" policy within the next 18 months.

The news was originally announced back in February this year. But chief executive Thierry Breton mentioned it again this week and the newswires have since jumped upon it.

Atos has over 70,000 staff in over 40 countries, who spend between 5 and 20 hours per week just dealing with their emails. They spend time in the evening trying to catch up with the backlog and get to “inbox zero”.

The goal at Atos is to reduce the amount of unnecessary emails sent within the organisation that can only benefit everyone.

Customers and partners will still receive external communications as normal, but internally the way that Atos intends to communicate will change.

The email fire hose

Often when you’re working in a team, or on a project, you will receive an email that just doesn't seem relevant or interesting to you.

Emails are sent to a large group of people who use the ‘reply all’ feature to respond. Reply all emails fill our inboxes up with more emails, perpetuating the problem. It’s almost impossible to get to your goal of ‘inbox zero’. The way that we manage the flow of mails can be distracting to our concentration too.

The New York Times highlighted a study showing that we can take up to 15 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted by an email. The question is: with Facebook like messages appearing in the feeds at Atos, will workers be able to continue to focus -- or will the new way of working be just as distracting as the old?

Islands of information in a sea of data

Atos intends to adopt and implement social business practices and tools throughout the organisation. The use of tools such as the Atos wiki and its implementation of Microsoft Office Communicator enables web conferencing and application sharing.

A real time messaging interface such as Facebook or the Microsoft Dynamics CRM service update would bring almost real time messaging to your desktop feed. They will also need to make sure that they implement new compliance procedures too.

Software auditing and tracking tools will become more important to make sure that all regulatory requirements are still being complied with, and all data is captured.

With so many emails appearing to be irrelevant, or unnecessary, it’s hard to wade through piles of group emails to make sense of messages that are actually valuable and useful. There are many different ways to reduce the amount of emails sent, such as stopping 'reply all' emails, setting mailbox policies, and careful inbox management and archiving software.

For cynics, this could be a way for Atos to sell more of its collaboration offerings and incorporate its smart organisation services, but there is a real benefit to the business.

Atos has already seen a 20 percent reduction in the amount of emails sent to staff within the company. This will reduce the demands for email storage and datacenter space and fits in with Atos’ goals to reduce total datacenter numbers to three after its merger with Siemens earlier this year. It makes good business sense.

I don't think that internal emails will ever disappear across business completely. I think that our behaviour will change as social collaboration tools mature and becomes ubiquitous in business. We’ve almost stopped sending faxes, and we no longer use telex. It won’t be too long when emails will be the unusual way to communicate and not the norm.

But this won’t happen within 18 months. Is anyone willing to wager it will be gone in 81 months instead?

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Topic: Collaboration

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18 comments
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  • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

    I wonder how Atos will communicate with external contacts? Even with a product like Microsoft Lync it's expensive and complicated to federate across every company / customer you might have to communicate with. If they want to lower their email costs put in some data retention policies and stop people from people gigabytes of old email. Maybe everyone work within a small mailbox and purge sent / delete folders on an established interval.<br><br>It will be interesting how they meet regulatory (SOX) obiligations to keep all communications for four years. How will they do legal discovery? This is nothing more then a company who sells a collaboration product that is seeking a bit of free marketing.
    MobileAdmin
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @MobileAdmin

      It was mentioned in the article...

      "Customers and partners will still receive external communications as normal, but internally the way that Atos intends to communicate will change."
      slanek
      • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

        @slanek

        Then obviously they need to replace the CEO as he doesn't even have the understanding of what Zero actually represents.
        Bozzer
  • LOL I give 'em a few years

    Faxes may be dying, but here in the USA they're considered legal documents, which is why many law offices still use them.

    I don't understand what the advantage of using IM and Facebook is over using e-mail. Both have group options, both are means of asynchronous communication that requires devotion to the task at hand, both waste productivity if alterted, and both can ramp up the SNR easily.

    Here is the difference: e-mail is an open standard. Whether the recipient uses Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, AOL, Eudora, Opera Mail, Zimbra, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, Apple Mail, Evolution, Squirrelmail, or Blackberry Mail, the message will get from the sender to the recipient. There needn't be uniformity with regards to the client, since SMTP is a time-tested, well-documented protocol for communication. On a higher level, e-mail etiquette has been largely established in the workplace.

    No social media can boast the same.

    Joey
    voyager529
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @voyager529

      Easy thing to do is extend that 'legal document' thing to e-mails, prints of e-mails, etc.

      Personally, I think that anything (fax or not) should be a legal documentation. It's not like faxes cannot be 'faked' very easily in a word processing program.
      Lerianis10
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @voyager529

      I agree Joey. That is one of the many reasons I don't even have a Facebook account. If I want to pass along information, I can either send an email or a text message on my cell. There is no need to go onto a clumped together social networking site to do this. And that way, you have more control over who the recipients are. At work about 95% of our workload is generated through emails, so I would dare say that e-mail is here to stay. :-)
      HelloKitty777
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @voyager529 The difference between email and instant messaging is not really in the technological details. It's just faster because it's far less formal. E.g. you don't start an IM conversation with "dearest Mr. .....", you just start typing your message and say what comes up in your mind. It's much quicker to get something done because you get an instant reply. <br>The fact that it doesn't use an open standard is also not a problem when you only use it inside the same company.

      As far as Facebook goes, I can't see a real advantage there because it's a closed system, controlled by an external entity. But I think the notion of 'social media' can be useful when you enroll it in a certain way, with the right policies.
      belli_bettens@...
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @voyager529
      Joey, am in sync with you - emails promote diversity in terms of client usage and if used appropriately its no nonsence stuff. IM and Social Networks are definitely a no no. Even spamming can be controlled for emails.
      mangal_tripathi@...
  • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

    So instead of wading through unnecessary emails, the employees will just switch to wading through unnecessary comments in a message feed. What's the difference?
    aep528
  • Email technology isn't the problem

    The problem is the expectation of a response, and how the sender and receiver each perceive that expectation. If I send someone a "new" social communication (via IM, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, etc.), I expect an immediate response because my goal is to interact with that user now. If I send someone an "legacy" social communication (via email, blog post, discussion post, etc.), I expect an unspecified delay in that response.

    With new social interaction, both the sender and receiver have to stop any existing activity to participate in the interaction. With legacy interaction, the sender can send when convenient for the sender, and the receiver can respond when convenient for the receiver. I believe this is a much more efficient means of communication.

    I think Atos will discover just as much, or more, time will be spent directly on communications as they shift to a "respond to me now" culture.
    Chris The Computin' Goo-roo
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @Chris The Computin' Goo-roo +1, great post
      goombawa
    • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

      @Chris The Computin' Goo-roo <br><br>Indeed when the senior managers realise that are now spending all day replying to IM messages that they could have aggregated and dealt with in the morning, they will soon press for the change back.
      Bozzer
  • Email technology isn't the problem

    The problem is the expectation of a response, and how the sender and receiver each perceive that expectation. If I send someone a "new" social communication (via IM, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, etc.), I expect an immediate response because my goal is to interact with that user now. If I send someone an "legacy" social communication (via email, blog post, discussion post, etc.), I expect an unspecified delay in that response.

    With new social interaction, both the sender and receiver have to stop any existing activity to participate in the interaction. With legacy interaction, the sender can send when convenient for the sender, and the receiver can respond when convenient for the receiver. I believe this is a much more efficient means of communication.

    I think Atos will discover just as much, or more, time will be spent directly on communications as they shift to a "respond to me now" culture.
    Chris The Computin' Goo-roo
  • Will Email Adapt to Our Need?

    I must say I was pretty surprised that Google Wave did not catch on. It made way more sense to me than traditional email. The ability to follow a thread in a linear fashion and without interrupting the flow in addition to the ability to bring people into a conversation with the ability to view it without dozens of repeated sections seemed like a no-brainer. I expect something like it will be the next step in corporate communication. I look forward to it.
    xderloin
  • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

    This is one of the reasons I was so optimistic about Google Wave. It was open source, the protocol was robust and had everything to pull us out of the Inbox/Outbox mess that we have inherited from our forefathers.

    I was very hopeful that Google, with help from the community, would iron out the small quirks and it became a replacement for willing organizations. All that we needed was some effort from enterprise towards adopting the new standard - but alas. :D
    rastogianand@...
  • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

    Thank goodness social media isn't distracting at all, unlike that mean old email. Atos is sure to see an instantaneous 10000000000000000000% improvement in productivity in their 35 hour work week.
    Vesicant
  • RE: Atos intends to drive staff to 'inbox zero' by 2013

    I doubt that getting rid of email would fix the problem. The fundamental problems with email are clutter/content-overload and attention shifts because of people looking at their inboxes too frequently, and the primary reasons behind these are behavioral and also related to bureaucracy and dynamics in companies. Anything that replaces email would have the same problems unless the underlying causes for these issues are fixed.

    We wrote about this at length in our blog on:http://blog.grexit.com/why-atos-zero-email-policy-does-not-make-sens
    nirajran
  • ATOS KILLS

    Please help stop ATOS and their practices in the uk:

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/sack-atos-healthcare.html

    http://victimsofatoscorruption.wordpress.com/

    http://www.disinfo.com/2011/09/stop-atos-from-censoring-the-web/
    stop atos