A CIO Revolutionizes the Rules of Email

Stowe Boyd reports that BT Global Services CIO JP Rangaswami has radically rethought his approach to email in two ways. First, he only reads email that’s directed to him alone, not email on which he is cc’ed. Second, he has made his email available to his staff:

More interestingly, he has opened access to his email to his staff. By treating his email as an open forum, he has found that his associates are more involved in his interactions with others. He has found that they can use this — particularly his sent mail — is a great learning opportunity.

Opening up email strikes at the main problem of email as collaboration tool, that is, that our archives are only available for our own reading and perusal. It turns email into a message board of sorts.

As a high-ranking executive, Rangaswami has the chance to make a real change in the email culture in his organization. Most staffers couldn’t choose to ignore emails that they were cc’ed on — because the cc’er might be their boss. Also, most staffers might not have email of high enough value that other staffers would benefit from browsing it, especially given many of the messages would overlap due to the cc factor itself. A software solution could eliminate duplicates though.

If you took these ideas to their logical extreme, you might eliminate email entirely in favor of forums and wikis. Perhaps when this generation’s teenagers take over, they’ll do just that, given their lack of emotional commitment to email.

This is the latest in the trend of reconstructing our relationship to email. In March, Amazon Web Services evangelist Jeff Barr called hopefully for a post-email era. Last week we explored the concept of email bankruptcy, where you abandon the project of getting through all the email in your inbox and admit to all the senders you’ll never reply. Now C-level execs transform the rules.