“Can you email me a copy?”
Whenever I hear or read these 6 words, I instantly get nervous. There have been many, many articles written about the evils of email. Yet, email continues to be the primary form of communication in many organisations throughout the world and is used for everything from who’s winning the football tipping competition to an audit log of important communications that may be required at a later date. I have known many Project Managers who spend hours upon hours staying up to date with email communication and managing their inbox.
Within the context of Project Management, the longer I manage Projects, the more I realise that email is a terrible tool for Project communication and should be abolished wherever possible. I understand why email has been used in the past for Project related communication and collaboration. It is difficult enough in communicating with staff internal to your organisation. At least internally you could refer to the same document on a shared network drive. However, once you started working on Projects where you have to involve stakeholders that are external to your organisation, how did you make information available to them? You emailed them. Inboxes then start to become a repository for key information. The following then occurs:
Version control issues:
For me, this is the big one as it affects so many important aspects of successfully running a Project. If your inbox becomes the central source of truth, how do you know you are looking at the latest version of a Change Log? Or an Issues Register? Or a Requirements Spec? This implies that Change Requests are being managed in a document or a spreadsheet. I’ve seen Projects where Change Requests have been circulated directly via email.
Lost action requests:
As an issuer and recipient of work packages and minor tasks, I know that by using email to issue and receive requests for work, there is a heavy workload in managing what has been issued to you as well as remembering to follow up the person you have assigned a task to. Due to often conflicting priorities in the work day, the amount of times where requests have literally been “lost in the mail” can be high. Some modern mail clients do have the ability for the user to add an emailed request to a tasks list, but this task list is not available for anyone else to review.
The amount of emails that I receive on a daily basis when I am managing multiple Projects is, frankly, insane. Filtering relevant, useful information from noise is a constant challenge. In addition, if inbox’s are where key records are being kept and then you have key staff leave your Project team or organisation, the loss of knowledge can decimate a Project.
…so what is the answer? Well the good news is that there are plenty of options in the market that are relatively inexpensive. Should you require a recommendation, please contact me directly and I will be happy to help. However, like any good Project, the solution isn’t anywhere near as important as articulating the problem and associated functional requirements. Each Project and organisation is different and will have slightly differing requirements in how they manage their Projects. I’ve met many PM’s out there who are brilliant at enforcing this within the scope of delivering their Project, yet upon review of their own Project Management processes….it can be a little like a “Mechanic’s car”.
My take is that whatever solution you choose, where practical, make sure that email is not a focus!