Tag Archives: enterprise

No More Attachments

What is one of the biggest time sucks in corporate information workflow?

Email Attachments.

Let’s go through an exercise.

Person A sends out an Excel document, Word document, PowerPoint presentation – choose your poison. They send it to 6 people. They ask each person to update a section and send it back to get merged.

First off, this is very 1999ish. We have better ways to do this. But let’s continue.

Person 1, 2, 3 start to update their sections. Person 1 replies directly to Person A, Person 2 replies to all. Person 3 though needs feedback from people not on the original chain. So they cut out their section, create a new document, and email it to Person X and Y. Person X updates something and sends it back to Person 3 but also CC’s Person B. Person Y updates the SAME part and sends back to 3 and X.

Confused yet? I am.

Person 3 then needs to merge sections but there are conflicts. So more back and forth on that with more attachments and revisions. Naming files CoolFileName_Rev5, Rev6, etc.

Meanwhile, back to our original 6. It has been a few hours, or a day, and Person 4, 5, 6 have been updating their stuff but haven’t sent anything back. But wait! Person 1 realized they didn’t have some critical info in the document, so they create a new revision themselves, this time with changes incorporated from Person 1 and 2, but not 3, and new changes from Person A that they forgot. They then send that revision back to Person 1-6 again and say sorry, but figure out what I changed and update your sections again. We go back to zero.

I could keep going here but you get the idea. Before you know it, there are multiple copies (10? 15? 20?) floating around, none of which are the master. It ends up being way more work for everyone involved.

I said earlier this is a better way. But what is it?

Well, using collaboration tools the way they were meant to be used would be a great start.

How about this? Person A saves their document to SharePoint (or insert your favorite collaboration tool here). In the document library they save it to, they turn of document revisions. They then send out the same email but without the attachment, instead a link to the document. The instruct Person 1-6 to try to “edit it Office Online/Web” so they can edit at the same time and not run into having file locking issues.

Person 1-6 then start their edits, and they can see the others working on it. Person 3 asks Person A to share the link/document library with Person X and Y, and they join in as well. Person X then asks for Person B to be included, and that happens too.

When Person A realizes they forgot some key info, they just update the master and send out a note that they update it, but everyone working on the document sees that too, and better yet, revisions are saved as time goes on, so they can see edits over time.

Which way do you want to work?

I choose the latter. Let me hear it.. “but so and so doesn’t know how to use tool X” or “it is too hard to get it going” etc. Well, I would choose a little pain up front the first few times using this new way of doing things instead of the perpetual nightmare of attachments forever.

Can we all agree, that “no more attachments” would be a good mantra? Who is with me?

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Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.