Using Collaboration Tools to "Face the New Reality"

We at Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools love the writings of Michael Sampson, and a couple of weeks ago he posted a great piece titled:  How to Manage Your Business in a Recession: "#1 Reset Priorities to Face the New Reality".  In this new age of budget cutbacks, businesses are looking for new ways to help its employees work together, or work with others.  He mentions two specific items that resonate with me:

  • Expense Management for Meetings.  With the new fantastic video and web conferencing programs available, remote meetings are becoming a more attractive - and economical - option for businesses.  As Michael says:  "[r]emember, it's the cost of telepresence in comparison to the alternative that signals whether it's a prudent financial investment, not the out-of-pocket cost per se." 
  • Get Out of Managing Projects in Email.  As we state in our book, email is a necessary communications tool, but it's a lousy collaboration tool.  If you're managing your projects (or lawsuits, or transactions) through email, starting thinking about whether tools like Sharepoint, Basecamp, or Central Desktop might make more sense.

Mike's article is a great read -- give it a look.

No "Reply-To-All" -- Making Email Better?

The "Reply To All" function in an email is at once the most useful and most horrible of email collaboration features.  The ability to communicate with your entire team with the click of one button is incredibly appealing  But at the same time, replying to everyone can be a huge time and resource waster.  Indeed, it can also create an "email storm," which recently occurred on U.S. State Department servers.  According to the Death by Email blog, here's what happened:

  1. A blank email was sent to many people on the department's global address list
  2. Some used "reply-to-all" to demand to be removed from the list.
  3. Others used 'reply all' to tell their co-workers, in often less than diplomatic language, to stop responding to the entire group.
  4. Some then compounded the problem by trying to recall their initial replies.
  5. The recall generated another round of messages to the group.

Yikes!  As a result, the word went out that any employee who used the "Reply to All" function would be subject to disciplinary action.  The Nielsen company  went one step further; they completely deleted the Reply to All button from the company's messaging software!

As much as it pains me to say it, email is still useful as a collaboration tool -- mostly because it's a tool everyone uses.  But it strikes me that limiting the use of Reply to All as a policy matter, while harsh, has the potential to improve the use of email in collaboration.  What do you think about Reply to All?

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