Project Management

Why Email Is Not Your Friend (part 1)

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By Christian Bisson, PMP

In the world of project management, you will encounter the “email philosophy” and the “project management tool philosophy” of how project tracking/communication should be done.

Emails can be an effective way to communicate or keep written documentation to refer to. Heck, I love emails. But ultimately, a properly used project management tool will be more efficient for your team. Here’s why:

1. Documentation Efficiency

Email might be a great way for you to track your written communications, but how properly it’s used and archived depends on the recipient. In contrast, with a project management tool, the “documentation” will be stored somewhere within a task or other type of item within the tool. Everyone can refer to it, and it should be easily found in the appropriate location instead of somewhere in someone’s inbox.

For example, I once took over a project from another project manager who used emails to manage the project. To help me get up to speed, the project manager had extracted a dozen emails and sent them over. I had to go through all those emails threads, most of which were out of context or outdated.

A better option would have been to have the relevant information within a project management tool where I could have reviewed the available information and known exactly who was doing what.

2. Task management

You could send someone an email listing tasks to accomplish, but unless that person replies with a status or you regularly ask for one, you will not get an update. If an update does come, only you and maybe others from the team will be aware, assuming they even read the email.

A project management tool will allow you to track all those tasks, with a proper assignee and status. It will be simple for someone to have all his or her tasks displayed and ordered in priority, including a description of each task/issue. In the meantime, the project manager can easily track the status of the project without having to constantly ask for one.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how to overcome challenges when switching from managing via email to managing via a project management tool. 

Posted by Christian Bisson on: June 21, 2016 07:15 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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I agree there are better ways but I am not sure how using a project management tool can replace correspondence history (E-mails) - Can you elaborate more on this point.

Hi Rami,

Of course!

A project management tool varies with it's functionalities of course, but it can easily be used to transfer the same information you would in a mail, but instead it's stored within that tool.

The advantages are:
- it's consolidated within the tool instead of being scattered in a people's inboxes, so it's easier to find what you are looking for
- messages can be categorised, structured, tagged, separated by project, etc. (varies with the tool of course), and this structure is applied to everyone instead of being dependant on each team member's ability to store emails
- messages can be linked to other items (i.e. tasks, issues, etc.)
- people can generally reply in one single thread instead of spreading into various email thread
- various notifications options are available, from getting notified when anything gets changed, to simply being able to "watch" certain relevant items (e.g. issue update).
- search functionalities amongst all what's stored, sometimes even within documents
- various miscellaneous functionalities to help follow all of this: activity feeds, daily digests, dashboards

It's good to note that there are some PM tools out there that might not provide most of these features, a project management tool must be selected to fit the needs of an agency, a team, or a project, but that's a whole separate discussion :)

I hope I answered your question, let me know if you have any further questions.


Thanks Christian - I agree that this would be a very good tool but if it is doable as I feel when it comes to this specific function it is easier said than done. Are you currently using a PM tool that has all those features ?

A few that I personally know are:
Teamwork Project Manager
Atlassian Suite (JIRA, Confluence)

A lot of PM tools out there have those features, and many other features too (reports, timesheets).

WRIKE is a project management too that encompasses all the feature that you talked about , including Communication. However, the real challenge is how to influence/trigger the shift from emails to PM tool.
In some organizations, people (including upper level managers) are so hung up on emails, they simply do not want to change. Change resistance is REAL, but everybody wants things to change.
I know herein comes the role of PM. But he/she needs support from the higher-up. I would pose a question: what is actually the percentage of higher-ups who themselves change to influence change in the organization. This is the essence of my observation running across multiple organizations that I have come across in my entire career.

Thanks for sharing Rajinder.

I actually just posted part 2 of this post to list a few little tips to help the change.

But "upper management" buy-in is so important too, I'm glad you mentioned it.


I completely agree with this article. We are using Clarizen and it allows for email correspondence to be associated with projects, tasks, issues, risks and other items so you can see them in context instead of buried with thousands of other emails in your email client.

As always Comunications are critical for Project success . Emailhas been used for this purpose. I think most people are using MS outlook which offers integration with others MS tools such as Onenote and Sharepoint . In my case I use OneNote for tracking meetings notes that Can easily posted in a Collaboration site like Sharepoint .

by using Onenote we Can write how the story is going by also using hiperlinks to key email chains.

great post and helpful.


I haven't myself used OneNote but I've seen it in action and can confirm it is a great tool for meeting notes.

We've recently adopted Confluence for all documentation (files or wiki-type), and store within it all meeting minutes amongst other items — I really love it.

Great points - and good mentions of application alternatives in the comments.

Thank you!

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Dear Christian
Interesting is your perspective on the topic: "Why Email Is Not Your Friend (part 1)"
Thanks for sharing

I am very curious to know how: "In the next post, I will talk about how to overcome challenges by moving from management via email to management through a project management tool."

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