I’ve been working on a magazine article, looking at the failure of both technologies to replace email in the workplace and corporate email archiving solutions. The main theme is about understanding email from a human-centred perspective rather than simply treating email as ‘data’ to be managed in the most cost effective way possible. The following didn’t quite make the cut in my own final edit, but I thought it might be worth sharing it here.
Over the years I’ve heard various reasons why employees like to keep their own personal email archives and they can be separated into three broad groups:
- Journaling – a chronology of what happened when and why;
- Personal Library – to record important information for future reference; and
- Non-repudiation – keeping copies of who said or did what, in case they need to be used as formal or informal evidence of responsibility.
This break down is based on my experiences over the years of working with organisations either implementing or trying to get more value out of existing collaboration and information management tools.
What is particularly interesting for me is that root cause that drives people to use their electronic mail system for the reasons I’ve listed above isn’t always necessarily the same. For example, in some organisations non-repudiation is important because of particularly toxic office politics. But in other cases, users made a rational decision to keep email because of certain professional responsibilities. The lesson here is that when ever we try to ask people to move away from using email (or at least an over reliance on it), we really need to understand why they using email in a certain way and not just focus on the visible behaviours.
Anyway, what kind of strange email hoarding behaviour have you seen and how does it fit into the categories I’ve described above?
Photo credit: Mr Popular