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

Atos to adopt social business practices and tools, implementing a 'zero email' policy to stop staff from sending unnecessary emails to each other
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

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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