Project Management

Why Email Is Not Your Friend (part 2)

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By Christian Bisson, PMP

In my last post, I discussed why you should manage projects via project management tools rather than via email. Let’s imagine you’re making the transition—a wise choice, congratulations! But it may not be smooth sailing as you embed the tool into day-to-day team life.

This post talks about challenges you might encounter a long the way, and how to address them.

1. Cannot use the tool

Not everyone can pick up a tool and learn how to use it on their own. And more often than not, training given to people is not fine-tuned to each individual’s needs.

Some will struggle, meaning they will avoid the use of the tool and revert back to emails or other means to get their work done. In this instance, you might even be asked to stop using the tool yourself because others struggle.

Although abandoning the tool might seem like a quicker way of fixing the issue, it’s actually addressing a symptom, not a cause. Avoiding the use of the tool is not going to be beneficial to anyone long-term.

Instead, take the time to help anyone who struggles, or prepare customized training for your team members. Ask them where they are having trouble, and show them how they can achieve what they need to do.

2. Annoyed by notifications

Oddly, one recurring complaint of using a project management tool instead of emails is receiving too many emails. For instance, when people comment within a task, the tool might email once per comment.

There are two ways you can mitigate the amount of emails:

  • Guide people toward their notification settings so they are configured to meet their needs. Some like to have lots of emails; others prefer to use activity feeds or a notification dashboard within the tool.
  • A project management tool should not replace a conversation. Invite people to discuss issues in person or via a conference call instead of having 10 back-and-forth debates within an item of the tool.

3. Partial access or multiple tools

Many organizations work with more than one tool, which can be very effective in some cases. However, what often happens is that team members are confused because they do not know where to go to see their tasks. In addition, sometimes team members in other locations do not have access to the tool.

All this means the project manager struggles to manage all the work of a project since tasks can’t be assigned to everyone or tasks are split into different locations.

This can be tricky to deal with if the project manager cannot select tools and access. However, the objective is to have everyone on board use one project management tool only. This lets all team members know where to get the information they need and allows the project manager to have a complete view of the project in one place.

4. Email lovers

There are some who feel they cannot live without email. Even when the project management tool has all the information and properly archives it, some team members still want that information emailed to them. Project managers should not resort to sending information within the tool and also sending an email to that person, which is duplicated effort for nothing.

In these cases, it is important to show the person that the same objective can be met with the tool. Show him or her how to access the information easily and how to archive a project workspace if that is a long-term concern when closing a project.

Posted by Christian Bisson on: June 22, 2016 07:30 PM | Permalink

Comments (18)

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Good read

I've always thought that the type of communication must always suit the person and also the organizational culture. Its a good idea to see if the chosen forms of communications, including email, do this? One persons preferences for communication modes should never be imposed on everyone. What matters is effectiveness.

"A project management tool should not replace a conversation." well said. Tools should enhance conversations. Effectiveness of these tools matter. Thank you

Email lovers, I have seen those...

Understanding the purpose of communication enhances great success.

Thank you everyone for your feedback.

George, I'm curious to find out if you have any tips to help with email lovers?


Good post. Thanks for sharing.

It is not right to say that we can not manage a project by email, while I agree with you about this could not be the only tool. Globalized world demmands from more than 25 years ago to interact with highly distributed people around the globe and email is one of the best tools to work in this type of environments. The question is: are we, as project managers, prepared to this new challenge?

It is not right to say that we can not manage a project by email, while I agree with you about this could not be the only tool. Globalized world demmands from more than 25 years ago to interact with highly distributed people around the globe and email is one of the best tools to work in this type of environments. The question is: are we, as project managers, prepared to this new challenge?

I agree with you completely, I do not believe I mentioned projects "cannot be managed by emails", they sure can!

However, there are now a variety of tools available to make teams more efficient, including when working with people scattered across the globe.

Emails are still very useful for communication as I mentioned in Part 1 of the article.

Sorry Christian is I did not understand. English is not my first language. I read both articles because both are really interesting for me, and that is because I made my comment. And thank you very much for give me the opportunity to learn from your post and comments. Regards.

No worries at all!

Glad you liked the article, thank you for your comment.

Christian, I am trying very hard to apply some successful behavior modification with our stakeholders and wean them from using emails as task update communicators. Thank goodness we have a PM tool that will notify users via email when updates are reported on a given task. Additionally, we are also considering videotaping a tutorial for users to view once they are signed up to use the PM tool. (#KeepingFingersCrossed)

Hi Dana, thanks for sharing.

I'm curious to know how it will evolve, keep me posted. What tool are you using?

The video tutorials are a great idea, anything to get people to ramp up as fast and easily as possible. Quick cheatsheets fine-tuned for people's needs can do quite nicely too.

What else are you trying to help this succeed?

We use Microsoft SharePoint. Will see if a few cheatsheats help the cause.



Great article

I am always aggravated by the people who cc themselves on an email. It's in the "SENT" folder.

Dear Christian
Interesting is your perspective on the topic: "Why Email Is Not Your Friend (part 2)"
Thanks for sharing

Important points to remember:
"1. Cannot use the tool
2. Annoyed by notifications
3. Partial access or multiple tools
4. Email lovers "

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