Flavours of email

IMG_3429Following on from my previous post and Graham’s posts one meeting productivity (1,2) I’ve been scratching my head as to which areas of the user population we can group together for a better email and meeting interface.

I think after just a few minutes thought that we could have the following flavours of email/calendaring in all organisations:

  • Light users
  • Information users
  • Executives with assistants (add features for infomation workers and data from previous post)
  • …there will be some more groups in between but I’ll just discuss the 3 groups.

Light Users:
These users would be the average user working within a team, performing repeatable processes either outside their desktop or generally using applications built for purpose.  Their need for managing work within their email is minimal.  They attend minimal meetings, rarely host a meeting and virtually never use their email interface to manage activities.

These users need a cut down version of the standard email interface.  They don’t need the bells and whistles, even the out of the box templates in Notes or Outlook may well be too complex.

Information workers:
Attend and arrange meetings.  Get many requests and actions through email.  Have to use email to control activities in projects with dispersed activities.  Are generally working on processes and projects which are not repeatable and hence have no set structure in terms of an application or workflow.  For these users we could do a lot more in terms of the way we present their email and calendar, and in the way these users are trained to use their email.  For these users I would recommend the following:

  • Better integration of appropriate time management methods into the mail interface.  And give the users a choice here.  I use GTD, others don’t like it.  Productivity should be our key aim here.  I find that for both Notes and Outlook the way they seperate tasks and email make it disjointed.  Sure I can copy an email into a task but that email is live and part of the task in most cases.  IBM have some great features coming with Activity Explorer and I’d like to see that fully integrated into the next client.
  • Train your users.  Most of us sit here, me included, muddling through managing activities in a way which could be better.  I use some of the GTD methods but not 100% and have not found a good solution within Lotus Notes for this.
  • Picking up on Graham’s post I agree with him that we should include in calendar invitations the option to:
  • Response = “I’ll attend if you spell out why you need me!”
  • Post meeting feedback – this needs to be included.  Meeting chairs will never learn to produce a better meeting unless they have feedback.
  • Integrate meeting booking with reserving resources for conference lines and electronic meeting.  Both Exchange and Domino can do this but many organisations still don’t and users have to scurry round various booking tools to get rooms, conference lines, projectors, electronic meeting rooms etc.
  • Ensure that if a meeting is being created the meeting requestor is forced to think about the aims and agenda by not allowing the meeting to be sent without it.

The panacea which we aim towards is the perfect solution.  It will never happen but if we all think about ways of improving productivity and getting those into our infrastructures that will be the equivalent of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Can you see it in the picture?  This was the closest I’ve ever been to the end of a rainbow at one point it was about 20 feet away.  No gold though!

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