Ban email, says senior IT CEO

Picture of Thierry BretonIs email's number up? Atos CEO Thierry Breton (pictured) seems to think so, as he has asked staff to phase it out within 18 months, believing it to be time consuming and inefficient. He says only 10% of the mails people receive are actually useful and that it makes no sense to take up evenings catching up with all the stuff that's arrived during the day. Indeed in many cases there are viable and better alternatives.

Breton has called instead for people to use instant messaging and a Facebook type interface. There are a number of companies offering internal "social network" style engagements, including Yammer and others. The idea is to set up a Facebook type structure within your organisation's communications infrastructure and use that instead of email.


This can be a very useful tool but it's not a complete substitution for email. It's vastly more efficient than copying everyone in on a single email then everyone getting the same response - that just clutters in-boxes. Having a tree diagram of where all the conversations happened, who's replying to what, and soforth, is vastly easier than tracing back every individual message on an email chain.

For one to one communication there's an argument that says Instant messaging is indeed better. However there will also be instances in which email is actually pretty good. A private interaction between two employees, for example, which doesn't require everyone else's input but may have to happen when they're not online at the same time, so IM is pretty much dead.

There's certainly a good case for adjusting the use of email in corporations. One of the more notable elements of this is that young people are abandoning it - only about 10% actually use it any more, according to Poitiers University.

Whether they'll be persuaded to change back when they reach employment is another discussion. Certainly when I went around the Unified Communications Expo in London earlier this year I found a lot of people saying email was dead, but only when they were trying to flog me an alternative, so for me the final jury is out.

I don't think I'd want to work for a business which had an all-out ban, though. What do readers think?