Thursday, August 31, 2006

You know what instruction I was the absolute worst at following through every year of school?
"Show your work."
I hate showing my work. Either the math is right or the math is wrong. Truth is truth, regardless of proof.
However, I'm posting about my corporate experiences to validate my opinion that the system has issues.
I'd like to also go on record as saying that I hate it when my teachers were right.
The most common complaints I've heard are all related to the accessibility and availability of email. No modern company can get by for any length of time without that stuff.
Even perceived delays in email are an I.T. bugging cause for alarm.
I've worked with email systems for a while. I can tell you that honest delayed mail is pretty rare. A regular server can handle the traffic from several hundred users without breaking a sweat.
Issues with mail delays are generally related to network problems or someone trying to send a 3 gig file all at once on a server not configured to block that.
I've seen drives fill up and capacity max out, but those are trends. Unless something is really wrong you can see those things coming.
However, the problem arises when Senior Management is expecting an email that hasn't turned up yet. As you can guess, technology has never helped Senior Management's expectations.
A recently dredged up study shows most of the real reasons email is delayed:

  • Most users check their email "constantly"”
  • Users would try to project a responsiveness image. For example, sending a short reply if a complete reply might take longer than usual, intentionally delaying a reply to make themselves seem busy, or planning out timing strategies for email with read receipts.
  • Users would look at shared calendars or other means to estimate how long they should expect a reply
  • If an email was urgent, users often used voicemail as a way to bring attention to their email
  • Emails were written differently, depending on how long of a delay was expected before a reply (especially if their recipients were in a faraway time zone)
  • Users would try to reciprocate email behaviors— responding quickly to people who responded quickly to them, and lowering their responsiveness to people who responded slowly to them in the past
So -- Email is vital, but for really important stuff always expect a phone call or cubicle visit. Politics play a major part in all co-worker interaction. You can expect delays in replies from co-workers who you've put off before.
Or from me. I'd much rather shout over a cube wall.
Also, read receipts annoy me. Expect me to not send them automatically but to go out of my way to read the email and store it, in unread format, for months -- just to see the response when the sender gets a "Your email dated two quarters ago has just been read". I love that.
People have to know that just because their mail clients are configured to query the mail server every five seconds, other people have stuff to do.
To give an example of the worst use for email as a time-saving application, one need only look at RadioShack.
The best form of office communications will always be the break room chat. It even works for forwarded jokes.

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