SiteScape is a team collaboration company. So, I had mixed reactions to a recent US News & World Report piece, “’Secretary of Tech’ Is No Fan of E-mail.” The “Secretary of Tech” here is Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/articles/060619/19whisplead.htm).
On one hand, I agree — strongly — that email is a lousy way to communicate and discuss critical related information. Many implementations of collaboration software are intended to displace email as a collaboration platform. Yet, lots of people try to use email for team work and will forever. Email is comfort food. But, it still does a bad job helping further almost every aspect of team work. A lot of the problem stems from just what Chertoff says, “When people rely on E-mail chains, it can sometimes leave the decision maker unable to sort out good information from information that’s just plain wrong.”
Taking off my corporate hat, my alternate take was, “Terrific. We’ve got technology Neanderthals protecting us.” Now, don’t interpret any of this as political commentary. I did know Mike Chertoff in college, when he had only slightly more hair. I learned within weeks of meeting him not to engage him in political discourse. He was terrifyingly articulate (as a future prosecutor should be), and our politics? Well . . . lose, lose for me.
But on his view of email as the culprit for bad, misleading communications? I’m on Mike’s side of this one. I’d spin the US News headline to read “Homeland Security Chief Endorses Alternatives to Email for Knowledge Networking.” Maybe Chertoff didn’t actually say that, but I bet it’s what he meant. After all, I talked to him in college.
—-posted by Tom Witkin