How to maximize email productivity and retain corporate knowledge

Gain a deeper knowledge of the products you already own and maximize your personal and organizational productivity.

thinkstock guy checking iphone email
Thinkstock/Ridofranz

I met Mike Song, the CEO of GetControl.net and author of the bestselling book The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before It Manages You, when he was speaking at an industry conference. Being impressed with this topic and the information provided, I ask him if I could interview him for this column.

I asked Mike what was the number one technology challenge of C-suite executives. His response, based on the results of 52,000 survey responses from senior executives of all types including CIOs, was having the time to truly master the finer points of business technologies, such as email, MS Word and PowerPoint, that they use on a regular basis. He didn't mean that they could not effectively and efficiently use these technologies. He meant that they were not able to truly master their full power because they didn't have time to properly learn, practice and master their more advanced and complex features.

For example, Microsoft Outlook has the ability to automatically categorize incoming emails and place them within the specified Outlook email folder, via user-defined routing rules. This feature saves the user from having to sift through all incoming emails manually to decide their importance, urgency, relevance and/or informational value. As a second example, Outlook has many navigational shortcuts that can reduce your keystrokes and mouse movement, thus reducing your overall time and effort doing email.

Emails can, of course, be effectively managed without the use of these and other related features, but the employment of these tools can dramatically enhance user efficiency. He went on say that this challenge was not only symptomatic for the C-suite, but also for the majority of the people using email within their organization.

He said one way you can remedy this situation is by doing the following:

  1. Find the "Tech Champs" in each technology within your organization. Tech Champs are those people who are truly expert in a specific application, such as Outlook, PowerPoint or other internally used software product.
  2. Give them credit and approval for having spent the time and effort to master the technology.
  3. Have them teach you and your staff their top 10 technology tips that drive productivity, quality and effectiveness when using the product.
  4. Create an environment that fosters and rewards the teaching, learning and usage of these techniques.

Moving from individual to organizational productivity, a major pain point he mentioned was the inefficient use of shared disk space, like OneDrive, DropBox, GoogleDrive or simply shared internal network disk space. Mr. Song said that if the files stored within these directories are not organized correctly, corporate knowledge is lost because previously written documents cannot be found when needed. Additionally, productivity is lost via the combination of the time spent looking for lost document and then the time spent trying to recreate then. There are various designs techniques and processes that can minimize these issues, including the creation of standard naming conventions, proper file indexing and user education on how information can be best stored.

As a final point, Mr. Song said that when trying to train your IT staff, and the organization IT serves, on how to maximize their effectiveness using available technologies, it's important to not simply provide information on the application's features and capabilities. While this type of instruction is factual and informative, it's not motivating. It only describes the how and what, not the why. The "why" explains the benefit to the user of enhancing their ability to more effectively use the technology they have at their fingertips. This, in turn, provides the motivation to learn, perfect and maybe teach others.

As a final thought, Mr. Song said the easiest way to measure how well your organization is following his advice is to continually ask yourself the simple question, "How good of a job are you doing getting your team to better utilize the various technologies at their disposal?"

Mike Song and his company can be found at www.GetControl.net. He has also been seen on NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC and Fox News.

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