Major IT services company tries to boost productivity by ditching e-mail

Even tech companies can't always tell when they're drinking the wrong Kool-Aid

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Thierry Breton

Former French Finance Minister Thierry Breton attends a parliamentary hearing in Paris.

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Is the key to real productivity a decision to get rid of your email?

The CEO of an $11.5 billion French technology services company thinks so.

Atos CEO Thierry Breton told the Wall Street Journal he hadn't sent an email in three years and is on a mission to eliminate it within his company in favor of instant messaging, Wiki-like internal sites for communication and file exchange or via text message. (That's where he starts to lose me on the whole "email is bad" thing; morally, what's the difference between text messaging and email? The difference between a vegetarian who also eats chicken and a vegetarian who only eats duck?)

Only 10 percent of the average 200 messages each of the company's 74,000 employees receives every day are useful; about 18 percent are spam, Atos said. Managers spend between five hours and 20 hours per week reading and writing emails.

Visits to Web-based email sites dropped six percent during 2010 according to comScore Media Metrix a statistic CNN uses to assume email is becoming less popular, especially among younger users, who favor text messaging, social networking and other forms of communication instead.

Email is not becoming less popular. Everyone hates it; everyone hated it last year. The hate curve is flat.

Atos CEO Breton is right that it wastes a lot of time and has an unmanageable signal-to-noise ratio.

If only 18 percent of the mail that gets through to employees is spam, Atos' spam filters are doing pretty well.

Of all the Internet email during 2010, 90 percent was spam, according to figures from Symantec; of the 260 billion spam sent every day, six percent contained malware.

Cutting 90 percent down to 18 percent without also routing useful emails into the junk folder is a decent result. Ending up with 20 useful messages per day out of an average of 200 is also right in line with expectations.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters/Tyrone Siu

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