Going on an E-mail Diet

A CIO is waging a campaign to cut office e-mail traffic by 25%.

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"I never had a project before that could have that kind of ROI," he says, noting that his investment was mostly internal staff time and about $50,000 in training costs.

Murabito says tackling the problem is yielding important benefits for the IT organization, too.

For example, the volume of e-mail was bogging down the company's systems. Regular maintenance is scheduled to run from Saturday mornings to Sunday evenings. That was once enough time to run a typical integrity check, but as the amount of e-mail grew, two days was no longer enough to run through and clean up corrupted objects in every mailbox.

Murabito determined that if he could cut back on the volume of e-mails sent and stored, he could once again work within that time frame.

He approached this problem as he does any IT project: He developed a business case to convince other executives that it was worth tackling. Response from the start was very positive.

"I had done numerous presentations to senior management, and I have never had one go quicker and smoother," Murabito says.

He laid out his goals, outlining a plan that called for providing tools and tips to help employees be more productive in managing their e-mail, and training them on communication guidelines and best practices with the help of the company's contracted trainer. He also pulled together a team of employees from various departments who established ground rules.

Not surprisingly, Murabito encountered some resistance. He set up a program that would clean out everyone's deleted-mail folders every night and delete all sent e-mails that were over six months old, but some workers resisted, saying they needed those messages.

That was an eye-opener.

"It showed they were using e-mails for more than point-to-point communication. Some were using it for document management," Murabito says. This revealed that workers, such as those in the clinical and regulatory areas, need better document management tools (which he's delivering).

Cubist's "Project E-mail Etiquette" is still under way, but Murabito says he's confident that he can reach the goal of cutting e-mail by 25% once everyone is trained later this year. He's already hearing reports of success. Consider the subject line of one e-mail Murabito received: "Just reduced my inbox from over 14k emails to 1460 {eom}."

Given his success so far, Cubist executives have enlisted Murabito to tackle that other big productivity drain: meetings.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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