Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nielsen's dismantling of "reply all" does not beat instant messaging

In what is probably one of the great quixotic corporate communications moves of recent times, Nielsen's CIO announced that is was disabling the "reply all" function on all corporate Outlook programs, according to Folio magazine's Dylan Stableford.

The Nielsen Executive Council solicited its employees for suggestions to eliminate "bureaucracy and inefficiency" in December and have now decided to implement one recommendation.

Eliminating the “Reply to All” function will:

• Require us to copy only those who need to be involved in an e-mail conversation
• Reduce non-essential messages in mailboxes, freeing up our time as well as server space

While it's no secret that it's an unfortunate part of corporate DNA to "reply all," much like long boring company meetings, this decree seems to be a dubious noble gesture meant to garner industry admiration but not grounded in practicality.

I say this based on one simple tenet: conversations don't necessarily have to take place between two people. And it all spirals out of control from there.

People do need to CC their colleagues when they are working on projects. I can't even begin counting how many times an editor asked me to send a graphic to their art person and copy them on it. Or dealt with colleagues or clients on a team project, such as an important event.

The other downside is that the dismantling will force employees to send out multiple singular e-mails to critical people, thereby spending more time than before on e-mail. Then when those people e-mail back individual replies, the result is actually at least as much in-box clutter if not more so than before.

While the notion of reducing bureaucracy and inefficiency is admirable, it should not come at the cost of community or actually getting the job done. You want to make things a little more lean and mean? Here are my few simple suggestions:

  • Speak to your employees about overzealous e-mailing, roping every person in a division on the CC list. Tell them who is essential to be part of an e-mail chain and who is not.
  • If for some reason you don't think you should be part of an e-mail chain, politely let the sender know that you don't need to be on it in the future.
  • Introduce instant messaging and group chats between employees. AOL's AIM is free and allows everything you ask for for direct communication, including short messages and attaching files. Have everybody create a brand new IM handle for corporate use, so that everybody collaborates quickly and easily without letting the world barge in.

1 comment:

Ursula said...

I couldn't agree more.