Thursday, August 03, 2006

Relying on e-mail to manage your projects

We all rely on e-mail to get work done. It is efficient and it leaves a trail. But e-mails can get lost. For example:
  • Last week, I received an e-mail message more than a year after it was sent! When I replied (a bit confused by it), the sender responded that now he knew what I hadn't written back sooner; I hadn't received the message! Thankfully, it wasn't critical.
    • Often delays in delivery are a few hours, if they are going to occur, but sometimes even that is too long.
  • E-mail can just go into the ozone. We don't know why, they just do.
  • Important e-mails can be flagged as spam and go into your junk mail, perhaps never to be looked at.
    • You should make it a habit to skim your junk mail before you delete it. You might be amazed at what you'll find.
As you work with your project team -- especially if it is a collaborative team that crosses institutions -- be sure to talk about the best way to communicate.
  • Should you be relying on e-mail?
  • Do you want to do instant messenger for quick communications, then e-mail to document any decisions?
  • Is the telephone a better communications method, especially in a rush (or maybe IM)?
  • Does everyone value the same methods and use them? Will any training (or prodding) be needed to ensure that people use the agreed upon methods?
  • Should you incorporate blogs and wikis to help your team communicate better and remember what was said?
By the way, e-mail -- electronic -- communication can be problematic. It is easy to write something that is misinterpreted. There are books on effective e-mail communications, including Understanding E-body Language: Building Trust Online by Bob Whipple.

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