One of the way email is used is to record agreements (micro) between people. It serves as a tool to memorializing these small agreements. I just finished a lunch meeting with a friend, and walking away I would start composing him an emailTo: Bill
From: Ritu “Thanks for taking the time to have lunch, as usual the conversation was rich and I feel enriched. Good luck with closing the deal with ABC Inc. On another note can you please send me the service agreement that you use with contractors, love to have it before the weekend. Also can you send me the name of the book you mentioned, I cannot remember the name for the life of me. Best to Betsy and the kids, till next time. Thanks Ritu” Another email sent. Another email added to Bills already 200+ emails he gets a day. I am sure he has read my email, but he has other pressing matters to deal with. If you look at the email, I sent, I am re-iterating on something that we agreed upon at lunch. And I am asking for something or making a request, for the name of the book. Now I am at work and I will forget everything about the agreement and the book. Comes Friday I have not got the agreement from Bill, and naturally I will send him an email reminder, and I would wait till Tuesday and send him another reminder. Does this sound familiar. In companies this gets out of proportion. Every meeting generates a load of such emails, stating what the people agreed to. And then there is the inevitable followup and reminders. This compounds the email overload. In Corporate America, our studies show that 12-15% of all email sent were followup and reminders. There is no way in email to list our say open agreements. And really search, sorting and everything fails. There are some creative ways to keep on top of this, I put actioned emails in their respective folders and keep the ones with open agreements in the Inbox, however its good for a few days and then the number of emails just grow out of proportions and I am barely keeping up… leading to a sense of overwhelm. In my opinion I just want to know that Bill (from the example above), has seen my email and he cannot do it by Friday, but he can send it to me by Wednesday. This return message, gives me some amount of certainty, and I don’t really care that he did not do it by the time he said he would. In Corporate America these micro-agreements and one of emails, collectively become a part of deliverables and initiatives. In diverse emails that we get during the week, we know for example Jean’s son is not well, and she is the only one who knows how to extract the data, Ram wants to take a day off, he is the only one who knows the API’s inside out, Johns project is running late and he has promised to get it done by next week, and so on and on. Each of the above email has effect on the delivery. And here we are not even talking about critical emails that have not been answered. I call this “email intelligence”, and there is no way to see the whole picture, so that you can bring some certainty and be able to predict to your management on the health of the project, deliverable or initiative. So whats the solution. One of the options is to turn these emails with the micro-agreements into Tasks.. Then suddenly there is a huge list of personal tasks. It robs the ability to negotiate with sender of the email, to come up with another date. OrchestratorMail presents a very simple solution. It defines the terms of the agreement right up front. You define the email as a “Request”, or if you get an email from someone who you have made an agreement over lunch into a “Request” with a very specific due date. Now at least you have in the subject line “Request| please send me the agreement” by Due Date 10/10/11. You can list by subject and you can see your open agreements. That’s just a start. OrchestratorMail provides pre-set selection of responses based on where you are in the conversation and who has the ball. Example you made the request to Bill, now Bill has the ball and he needs to respond, his pre-set responses could be any of the 7 [Accept, Decline, Counter Offer, Delegate, Already Responded, Clarify]. There are only a finite set of responses to any state of the conversation, however in language the same thing could be said 100′s of different ways. Having the finite pre-set responses, takes all the ambiguity and chance of misinterpretation away, and creates a structure of common understanding. Finally, OrchestratorMail, sends a Summary of all Open Conversations (or Agreements) every day in the morning (and on demand). This list all the open emails divided by is the response due from you and by when, or, if the response is due from them and by when. It keeps all the conversations in existence. You now have access to the unfolding of the project or deliverable in conversations, and can predict the health of them with more certainty, and not after the fact. Oh did I tell you the other person who is in the conversation also gets the Open Conversation Summary, making sure critical emails don’t get missed. The Open Conversations disappear at the logical conclusion of the conversation.
Abstracting the intelligence out of email, will make delivery of critical projects and initiative on time, or better still give some certainty, which would help set expectations all around and a perspective on how it would effect the cash flow, even before the budget/actual numbers are produced.
OrchestratorMai is currently being used in the Supply Chain and Manufacturing division of one of the largest publishing company in the world, and the SVP predicts what will happen in the next 2 weeks to update his CFO. He says that before that he never ever had visibility across hundreds of initiatives and projects.