Huge French Company Cuts off Nose to Spite Face

Susanna Kim of ABC published an article on November 29th describing how a French company has decided to implement a “Zero Email” policy, a policy banning employees from sending internal emails.

The CEO of Atos, Thierry Breton, (a French information technology company!) has said that only 10 percent of the average 200 emails employees receive per day are useful and 18 percent are spam.  Because of this statistic, he hopes the company can eradicate all internal emails in the next 18 months forcing the company’s 74,000 employees to communicate with each other via instant messaging and other Facebook style interfaces.

This reminds me of the story about an HR VP who was so tired of employees calling her with questions and problems she stopped answering her phone. She had 30 whole minutes of peace… until employees figured out where her office was.

Why not stop all internal phone calls? It would seem to me that internal phone calls would have the same “waste” statistic.  How about this… program your corporate phone system to not allow any calls from one internal number to another and instruct employees that to contact internal employees, they must use Skype. That should solve the problem, right?

Email has become a wildly successful world-wide business productivity tool. To force thousands of employees to abandon it for other types of communications technology doesn’t seem to address the problem. Won’t only 10 percent of employee’s communications using the new communications solutions be useful as well. Is there something magical about the new technology that won’t allow employees to send wasteful communications?

The other problem that arises with this particular strategy is the problem of litigation holds and eDiscovery. Email systems are well known and technology exists to enable organizations to handle email in a legally defensible manner. It seems to me an organizations risk of insufficient eDiscovery and spoliation will rise with a switch to a new communications technology.

The problem is not the technology… its employee’s use of that technology. If 70-90 percent of emails employees send internally is junk, then train the employees on proper etiquette and use policies around the use of email. Train employees to not “reply all” or “BCC” on every email. Audit employee use of the email system and punish those that misuse it.

Running away from one of the most useful business tools ever seems like a gigantic over-reaction.