Zero email, how to get things done! Part 2

Posted on: November 22, 2013 by Jan Krans

The next level, minimizing email sent

Challenged by the Zero email ambition of our company it was time to take it a step further, since mastering the inbox overload problem is not enough. Basically, it is doing the same as before only more efficiently, which was described in a previous post. In this second post the bar will be raised, how to become more effective in communication by starting out-of-the-inbox behavior. Instead of using email, pick something else to get stuff done faster with higher quality and as a positive side effect a decline in a total of emails being sent.

‘busy’ or ‘free’ for conversation

Within Atos we are using Microsoft Lync for Unified Communications. It offers the possibility to see the presence of colleagues, if they are online or not and if they are ‘busy’ or ‘free’ for conversation. When they are free you can start a chat conversation or a (video) call with one or multiple participants and share your computer screen if needed.

Asynchronous way of working

Lync is very well integrated with Outlook, you can see in your inbox if senders are online and open for a conversation. And even better, when you are hovering over the sender’s name, a popup will show and provide the option to reply with a chat message or call. This will offer to move from the asynchronous way of working with an email to an asynchronous way of working and thereby resolving the email topic faster and with more quality resulting from the direct interaction with the sender.  

End of every email

So I committed myself to use Lync as default answering mechanism when possible and integrated Lync in the Inbox Zero system. This is easy to do because you can save Lync conversations in Outlook and apply the same GTD routine as for email and the conversation history folder is now also becoming a processing target. It is best to do this at the end of every email processing cycle.

It worked out quite well, because it leads to less ‘to do’s’, ‘projects’ and even more important less email chains of multiple replies.

Routine: "chat" or switch to "call"

Here is the routine: if sender(s) is/are online, reply with chat message, if chat takes longer than 2 minutes, switch to calling (is one click in Lync), when talking, (if it’s an important conversation) jot down the major points of the discussion, conclusion and decision in the Lync chat window and at the end of the conversation ask the participant(s) to type ‘ok’ in the chat and end call. The chat will automatically be saved into your conversation folder in Outlook for further processing. Forward the Lync conversation to all participants by mail, put it in the ‘To do’, ‘Maybe later’, ‘Short archive’, ’Reference’ or delete it.

After using this routine for a few weeks my emails sent and received dropped significantly and I got the real feeling delivering better quality, but most of all I liked the talking part, connecting with colleagues and work became more social again. Are you already achieving the benefits from Unified Communications to drive email down and quality synchronous communication up?

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About Jan Krans
Director Enterprise Collaboration, Social Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing and member of the Scientific Community
Jan Krans is Group Director Enterprise Collaboration, Social Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing, a member of the Scientific Community and a Lecturer at The Hague University. Jan is specialized in new ways of working in combination with social business and he likes to surf. Not only the web, but also waves and wind, to get a clear mind and to be connected to nature’s forces. Do you want to be in contact? Just send a tweet to @Vivjan or drop a line at

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