I give up. After almost two decades of e-mail being my quintessential business tool for managing people, projects and processes, I have to admit that it no longer is up to the job. It is time for me to deal with the fact that we are living in a post e-mail world.
With the exception of mobile messaging -- please, I need some e-mail downtime -- I've tried it all. I triaged my messages using folders, flags and follow-ups to keep things organized. I jumped onboard to use the Lookout search engine for Outlook before Microsoft bought the company. I try to take advantage of every useful feature available.
But I'm convinced that you just can't manage via e-mail anymore.
Perhaps you are thinking: "Tolly, where have you been?" My answer is that it's so ingrained to use e-mail that my approach to managing more projects has always been to use more e-mail.
I'm sure that there are countless others who also have continued to hammer away at projects with the same trusty tool -- e-mail.
The new tool? Collaboration. OK, it isn't new, but for me at least, its time has come.
Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie has been in the collaboration groove since he, well, created Groove a number of years ago. Now part of Microsoft, this virtual office environment lets teams "share files, manage meetings and projects, track data and processes, and get work done as if you were all in the same location."
Collaboration systems such as Groove enable the type of interaction and sharing that you can't do when your tools consist of just an in-box and a server share. And, because you probably don't want outsiders having access to your server shares, you often find yourself limited again to e-mail.
Early implementations of Groove, as with any significant new platform, had limitations and bugs. The lack of broadband speeds years back often made file synchronizing impractical because of the slow-motion nature of narrowband connections.
That restriction is gone and it is quick enough to sync up even multimegabyte files. Over time, mechanisms for keeping shared data in sync and allowing transmissions of "updates only" have made the process quicker and more reliable.
Software-as-a-service also has emerged as a viable way to implement everything from CRM to collaboration. Thus, the planning and effort needed to prototype a collaboration suite has disappeared.
While I haven't investigated Microsoft's Live Office, one would imagine that its Collaboration offering is a packaging of the Groove technology and offers a quick way to explore collaboration.
Central Desktop is a third-party hosted collaboration solution. (The Tolly Group has no affiliation or relationship with it.) We've worked with it and found it to have all the essential features we need for various collaborative projects.
It has workspace templates for common types of projects to get going in minutes but also lets users customize workspaces to suit individual project needs.
E-mail is not going away, but rather than running your project, it is much better suited to the task of notifying you of updates to your collaborative, groupware project.