Banning Email at Cisco

In an attempt to encourage staff to shift to new ways of communicating, Peter Hughes at Cisco has banned his staff from using email for broadcasting messages:

Employees’ reliance on email as the primary mode of communication is hurting business productivity, according to an executive at one of the world’s biggest technology companies, Cisco.

Peter Hughes, Cisco’s director collaboration, has banned his staff from using the decades-old technology – modelled on the timeless letter – to broadcast messages to a group of colleagues. He’s even introduced a system of fines to drag them away from it. It’s called the “Hughsey email tax” and while not a corporate policy, he says it has reduced broadcast emails among his team by 95 per cent in a year.

“Email has become abused. It’s causing a lack of productivity. The email thread [or] chain can go viral through an organisation but there are people don’t need to be on the list,” Hughes said.

He offers web conferencing and online collaboration – both markets addressed by Cisco products – as more productive alternatives.

In a bitter twist of irony, he fined one employee $100 for sending out a group email containing a link to a newspaper article that referenced comments he made Thursday at a the Future of Work conference in Melbourne. The money raised goes to a charity of his choice.

Technology companies that sell collaboration tools need to walk this line. But much more importantly is the need to find non-technology companies where managers take this approach. Know anyone?

4 thoughts on “Banning Email at Cisco

  1. I like the comment in the original article…”It’s not constrained to technology. It’s also about people and process.” So true. The culture has to change, and it sounds like Cisco are making the right step.

  2. It annoys me, how there is a trend to push this “the problem with email” paradigm, mainly from companies selling “Enterprise Social” (or what they _claim_ to be “social”).

    Email is a very powerful tool – perhaps the most powerful communication tool ever implemented in any organization, and possibly the most productivity enhancing tool since the conveyor belt, yet it is being blamed for all sorts of hardship at the moment?

    Reality is, that email is brilliant for some very specific reasons:

    1) It is standards based, which means it is technology agnostic, cross platform, fully integratable and interchangeable inside AND outside your organization.

    2) It is cheap to run and manage, compared to the number of “transactions” flowing through the system.

    3) It is fast – close to instanteneous – and can be very close to synchronous, despite …

    4) Being fundamentally asynchronoys, it doesn’t interfere with what you otherwise do, unless you want it to.

    5) It works online AND offline

    and, most importantly

    6) It fits into – and perfectly mirrors – any other P2P communication link in your business processes.

    Some email systems even has brilliant workflow-engines built in, making it possible to achieve effective automation of large parts of your internal (and external) communication.

    If companies are getting it wrong with email, they should take a long, hard look at their work culture, not at the tool.

    Sure, the tool can be improved. Sure, there is a place for such things as “Enterprise Social”, but when you look outside your own company, things become quite complicated with “Social”, and a lot of restrictions will appear.

    Also, one of the underlying “engines” in an effective implementation of “Enterprise Social”, is email.
    Email for sharing, email for notifications, email for extending the reach.

    Every tool can be “a problem” if used incorrectly.

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