Email. If you’re anything like me, email is at once the most helpful and most terrifying tool at your disposal. The ease of conversing back and forth – and not having to get on a call that will probably devolve – often saves my day or week. At the same time, I’ve used all sorts of strategies over the years to keep that little red bubble of constantly-growing notifications at bay.
One thing that has made a difference to me over the years has been utilizing a collaboration tool. Let me be clear: I have used many. And frankly, not all of them have made a positive impact on my inbox. In fact, sometimes, the number of alerts that are necessary to keep up with your collaboration tools end up making managing your email inbox that much harder.
So today, we’re going to discuss what your collaboration tool needs to actually make a difference and to help you successfully manage your email inbox.
1. Replying to comments
One simple way that collaboration tools can reduce email bloat is through allowing you to respond by email to their notification. This way, you and your teammate can connect about a project, seemingly through email so your access is shared on all your devices, but it tracks the conversation in the tool.
Why this is helpful:
- You can delete the emails related to the notifications, not file them away.
- The conversation is stored in the tool, so when you have a question about what you decided, why, etc., you can reference the tool, not go digging through years of emails for that needle in the haystack.
2. Communicating with non-users
Another way that your tool should work WITH you is through helping you communicate with non-users. Collaboration within the tool between your team members is helpful, but every time you have to start an email thread with people outside your tool – and keep the responses placed somehow in your tool – not only does the tool now cause extra work, but you have two sources of truth. No one wants that.
Sending information from your system
Rather than you taking the conversation out of your tool and into your email, get a system that originates emails in the system that come from you. Your communication history can then be tracked from the tool.
Retaining responses in your system without extra effort
Additionally, it is not enough to simply start the conversation from the tool. Their responses should also flow naturally into the tool so that your tool remains the main source of truth.
Why this is helpful:
- You can easily find the information you sent your clients/external parties/coworkers outside the tool
- You don’t have to add another task to your list: moving your email conversations into the tool to maintain accurate historical record. No one wants their tool to create more work for them.
3. Email integration
Your tool should have a two-way integration so that you can not only send contacts from the tool, but that information from your email can seamlessly flow into your tool.
Capturing relevant email conversation
In the last point, I mentioned that responses to your contacts from the tool should be captured automatically in your tool. But, what if the recipient responds through a different email thread? It’s happened to all of us. An email integration option that permits easily sending email contents to your tool is critical here. You don’t want it to take additional time. You want one source of truth (your tool). One way tools do this is through an email plugin that will allow you to search for and select the related ticket in the tool, then add that external contact to the communication stream.
Additionally, there should be an easy way to get information from your email into your tool to create new tasks, tickets, or projects. There are many ways this can be accomplished, and some tools include multiple ways. A few examples are:
- Emailing/forwarding an email to a designated email address. This will add your task to the appropriate portion of your software.
- Creating a ticket. This will allow you to use the email as the description of your task while giving you the opportunity to fill all relevant fields and provide additional instructions from your email client, without ever having to access the tool.
Why this is helpful:
- Not every person plays by the rules of “email threads.” Additionally, if you’re working with them on more than one project, they might try to include all their responses in one email. This way, you can quickly add their email to the relevant ticket(s) without missing a beat (and taking time away from actually doing your job).
- When detailed information is passed through email, why reinvent the wheel with ticket entry? Tools should allow for this kind of integration so you can input all the known details easily and from your email – without having to copy/paste or juggle between screens.
When integrating your tools with your email through these methods, you can significantly reduce the number of emails received, significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in your email looking for historical information, and reduce your reliance on any one team member’s email to be a source of truth for your projects, contracts, customers, or other tasks through your organization.