Yes, it is possible. Really! You can actually get your job done with little to no reliance on email. Heresy, you say? Nothing of the sort, I say. I know this because I’m living that dream. 🙂
Aside from some automated alerts, in the 7 months-ish that I’ve been on board at Automattic, I think I’ve received a couple dozen emails or so. Almost all of those were related to new hire paperwork and a few exchanges from folks outside the company.
So, what’s wrong with email?
I have nothing against email – it can be a great communication tool – but in my professional experience, it’s really easy for it to become your taskmaster instead.
You know …like those times that you take a few days off and come back to 500 emails in your inbox. Not pretty. Or when you get caught up in an email exchange you really don’t need to be involved in. Or when your boss drops a 1,000-word email bomb in your mailbox. Uh oh. Or when someone forwards you the last of a 2-mile long email thread and you have to slog through it just to figure out why the heck you got it and what you’re supposed to do with it. Blerg.
Yeah, those times.
In a nutshell, email gives other people not only the ability to interrupt you (in a manner of speaking), but also permission to add things to your task list, even if it’s simply requiring you to read and respond.
Email also often locks away useful information in siloed inboxes rather than putting it in an open forum that’s searchable and available to all.
Automattic: An (almost) email-free establishment
So, how does Automattic do it? We communicate a lot through Skype, IRC channels, and of course internal blogs (we’re WordPress.com after all) and we gots lots of ’em. Until recently, our internal blogs used the p2 theme, but we’ve switched over to the new o2 (and soon so can you!). With the exception of Skype chats, it’s all indexed and searchable, making the content available to all.
Anyone at Automattic can contribute to the conversation on any O2 by posting or commenting on someone else’s post. Or they can just read if they choose. Or they can ignore posts or entire blogs completely.
It’s really up to each individual to choose how they create, consume, and share information internally.
But…but….but, you splutter, caught up perhaps in jealousy or skepticism (jealepticism?). What if someone needs you to read or respond to something? We’ve got that covered too.
Any time someone is tagged in a post, that person gets a notification with a link to the post – just like the notifications that other WordPress.com users are accustomed to seeing. This makes it very easy to “alert” someone that they’ve been mentioned and for them to click right through to see the post. It also makes it easy to see when someone likes or comments on your own posts.
Could this work for you?
This way of communicating might not work for every company, but I bet it would work for many – maybe even most. Even if you’re not able to completely replace email with something like this, imagine if you could replace 25% or even 50% of your internal communication with something that’s open and searchable. Something that allows the newest of your new employees to get up to speed on almost any discussion and review the history on just about any project your company has done – ever. Hmm, pretty powerful stuff there.
If this intrigues you, pop on over and read Scott Berkun’s article, “Is There Life After Email?”. He probably explains it better. 🙂