Friday, July 17, 2009

How to Improve E-Mail Client Software: 15 Ideas Based On Enterprise Attention Management

The most popular "overload" topic in offices today is e-mail. But after all these years of incremental improvement to IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, surely there can't be any low-hanging fruit left to pick to help people manage inbox overload. Or is there?

The Enterprise Attention Management Conceptual Architecture to the rescue! Rather than relying on a set of personal pet peeves or specific annoyances that have happened in recent memory, a model such as the EAM conceptual architecture provides a systematic approach for analyzing the attentional characteristics of a system.

The EAM architecture is intended for use by organizations to examine individual technologies or whole systems (such as the information worker desktop) that are suspected of causing explicit (information stress) or implicit (poor decision making, slow reaction to new information) information handling problems. With systems it can be used for gap analysis. Here I use it as an intuition pump to reveal a set of potential enhancements to e-mail software that would improve its attentional characteristics.

Click on the thumbnail below and scroll around to see the ideas that came out of my informal analysis of e-mail. Also, here is a quick summary of the recommended improvements (going clockwise from the upper-left of the diagram):
  • Scheduled delivery

  • Maintain whitelists to bypass blocks and delays

  • “Move to discussion” greys out “reply”

  • Automated routing and prioritizing? Not yet

  • Un-bury turning off or freezing of “toasts” (alerts)

  • Enable e-mail hyperlinking

  • Enable role-based profiles

  • Enable sender tagged e-mails

  • Stop attachment abuse

  • Presence-enable recipient lists

  • Enable group-based rules

  • Turn e-mail into generic small-content tool

  • Manage multiple inboxes

  • Provide inbox analytics

  • Token systems

  • Remind sender if no reply

Caveat: I'm not an e-mail expert. It's possible that some e-mail systems can already do these things outright, with some configuration, or with simple coding. If so, great, although they should be no more than one click away. In the meantime, my inbox is filling up as I wait for these capabilities in the next version of e-mail programs.

No comments: