How many emails are filling your inbox right now? 50? 100? 1,000? If the mere thought of answering that question induces anxiety – well, you’re probably not alone. Employees not only spend 20 percent of the workweek searching for internal information or seeking out colleagues to help with specific tasks, but an estimated 28 percent of their office hours sending, receiving, or sorting emails instead of doing their jobs.
Companies looking for innovative ways to reduce inter-office email are turning to new technologies for project planning, tracking and management, and collaboration. By utilizing the robust features of project management software instead of convoluted email chains, consulting firm McKinsey estimates that businesses could raise employee productivity by 20 to 25 percent.
Collaboration vs. Communication
Email has become the Swiss Army knife of the office. Despite the use of email to increase office communication and productivity, it generally hinders efficiency. Email is great for communication, but when it comes to actually managing projects and getting things done, it falls short.
Rather than focusing on communication, the majority of office messages are sent to coordinate office collaboration, a function outside of email’s ideal use case. Let’s look at some ways project management software can combat email overload and buried information.
Reviewing And Sharing Documents
The Email Pitfall: Collaborating on large files gets complicated and time-consuming when using email. Uploading, downloading, revising, and saving documents results in a messy inbox. Oftentimes it’s hard to search attachments quickly. Other times, documents aren’t included in the reply thread– only in the first email –causing employees to spend time searching for the original email.
The PM Solution: Shared documents organized in a central location enable collaboration and eliminate multiple versions of files. Many project management platforms allow users to track changes and even edit or comment within discussion threads. It’s easier to find, manage, and share collaborative documents when they’re easily accessed and not hidden away as an attachment.
Managing and Assigning Tasks
The Email Pitfall: Using email to assign tasks and responsibilities is not always bad. However, if this habit leads to tracking progress via email then issues can arise. Lost time searching for assignments, confusion over responsibilities, and constant “reply all” emails used to keep teams in the loop are all too common when email is used as a project management tool.
The PM Solution: If businesses are looking to streamline and track progress, then project management software that features a shared task system could be the answer. Coworkers can immediately see where a project stands and who is contributing. Additionally, a common task system makes it easy to track important project elements. Being able to see the time and cost of a project in one place makes it easy to calculate the return on investment. This information can also be used to plan similar projects in the future.
General Questions or Group Decision Making
The Email Pitfall: Email is often used to ask a teammate one simple question. But what happens when a new employee has the same question? What happens when 50 or 100 employees want a quick answer? Once a problem is solved, it doesn’t help the company grow if that solution is stuck in a reply thread at the bottom of someone’s inbox.
The PM Solution: Email threads are no good when it comes to collective thinking and organizational learning. By utilizing the collaboration tools in PM software, businesses can create message boards or shared wikis that facilitate participation and high quality conversations. New employees can quickly search for information that has already been discussed. By creating a centralized knowledge database, message boards lighten the email load and let anyone easily retrieve past information or documents.
You’ve (Unfortunately) Got Mail
Harnessing the power of project management software can help boost your office productivity and get out of the email time-trap. Some companies are even implementing a zero email policy to cut back on time spent reading and sending inter-office messages.
If your company spends a quarter of the week sifting through emails– it may be time to make a change. Project management software can be your solution.
Jacel Egan is a media relations coordinator at TechnologyAdvice. She covers gamification, business intelligence, project management, and other emerging technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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