Copyright © 2011 Cary J. Calderone
DredLaw readers know I have mentioned the trend towards using "New Technology" like social media and social enterprise applications, in business. Rypple and Yammer were developed for business use and even Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus, are a common consideration for any company looking to market on the internet. Companies are using social style Wikis to manage internal projects. To be sure, I have warned readers about the need to have policies and procedures as a safeguard so their companies can use these New Technology applications in accordance with good data management and DRED practices. But, this post will focus on some of the positives and comparative benefits of using these newer applications. Yes, there are still potential pitfalls to social applications in business. However, when compared to old email policies and practices, social-style applications have the potential to be a tremendous improvement to your organization's computer communications practices, and here are 5 reasons why:
1) Tighter organization: Email is a communication vehicle that is frequently organized apart from its subject-i.e., whether the subject is a web page, a PowerPoint presentation, or a video clip, or a picture, email is kept with emails, and the other documents are stored someplace else. If you do not constantly attach the latest version of the "subject" document, or at least a link to the latest version, the email may be ineffective. In social-style applications, the comments can attach directly to the subject matter. This is so whether it is a document for editing, a video clip for viewing, or a whole host of other types of electronic information.
2) Enhances collaboration: Email that contains its subject as an attachment is inefficient. When three people start editing a document, nobody is working on the same version. How fun is it to get 3 or more versions back and have to resolve the changes and suggestions? Some are duplicates and some conflict other's changes. How does that help move the document to final version? With social collaboration applications, you work on the same version even at the same time.
3) Smaller carbon footprint: Email volume grows much too quickly. Did you get the cc? Did you get the bcc? Will you send me a confirmation? Every time you get an email with 10 ccs, that indicates that at least 10 times the amount of information is stored-and even worse if there is a large attachment with the email. Social collaboration applications avoid the need to cc. People just look at the project thread and see related comments, one after the other. Again, this is much more efficient than sending out ccs, which at some companies are so excessive, they are automatically and routinely ignored. This factor alone could justify the move to New Technology social-style applications.
4) Just the facts, please: When you want to search for project information you'll find your Inbox includes calendar dates and meeting requests that involve the subject, but not in a substantive way. Why should you keep or need to search through calendar or other unrelated information in your inbox, when you are searching for information about a certain project? Answer- you shouldn't.
5) Social is better even if you organize your email: For those who read #4 and thought it did not apply to them because they organize email into project folders, please remember that email can discuss multiple topics. Do you have to keep a copy of the same email in 4 different folders? Do you set one or multiple deletion dates for that email? Once again, social applications generally promote short, to the point comments, under one specific project heading. Moreover, down the road, when it is time to delete all information about that certain project, the entire data set can be deleted at once. This should include all the video clips, pictures, and comments too. That is much more efficient and effective than searching your email repository, your Word documents, your Excel Spreadsheets, etc. etc.
I'll bet that while reading this list you thought of some advantages New Technology social applications would have over your email practices at your business. On balance, one of the challenges of DRED and Information Governance is trying to create a set of best practice rules to manage a wide range of applications, data types, and formats. Social-style business can be scary at first, but it can also make it so all the communication, editing, explanatory materials, and supporting data, are viewed and reviewed in the same place. That works much better than plain old email.