Archive for November, 2008

How much does this stuff actually help?

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

We've been so focused on some big new initiatives at ClearContext the past few months that my blogging pace has really taken a huge hit.  I have a big backlog of topics to cover, but besides a quick Thanksgiving trip have no other travel planned for a while, so hopefully will do a better job at staying on top of them over the next few weeks.  I can't believe I still haven't blogged about exciting progress being made at IORG or about various excellent presentations and discussions from Defrag.  Soon, soon, I promise!

The first topic I want to touch on is something that actually came up a few times at Defrag.  There are so many products and companies trying to tackle issues around information overload, with new companies popping up seemingly every day – especially in the email space.  However, few of these companies actually address the issue of how much their products actually help people with the real problems they face with email.  Instead, the focus is often just on cool new features and soft benefits that almost always sound good, but often don't address the huge pain that people and companies are facing with levels of email that they simply can't keep up with.

Few companies have done a good job at identifying the real problems, providing good measurement and metrics to users, and using that information to actually help users with their problems.  I'll address those three areas briefly, but they are definitely worth going into more depth in future posts.

The problems people face with email today

This is the area that is easiest to understand, and most companies in the space focus on a similar/overlapping set of issues people face, including things like:

Getting more email than they can handle
Spending too much time dealing with email
Being unable to respond to email in a timely manner
Can't find information they need in email

There are many more issues, but you get the idea.

Measurement and metrics

Here is where things start to get shakier.  Outside of some research experiements and internal corporate projects, most people and companies don't have a good understanding of the numbers that they are dealing with.  As awareness of email and information overload problems grows, questions like these are starting to get more focus:

How many emails are people getting?
How quickly are they responding?
How many responses are they able to send?
How behind are they getting with emails piling up in their inbox?

Of course, those are just a few examples of basic metrics.

How (and how much) do products help and what should people do?

OK, so we do some measurements, and guess what – people get too many emails, get way behind on responding, and can't keep stuff organized.  So now what?   This is where things get most challenging.

To really solve the biggest problems people face dealing with information, we need to help people understand which of those measurements are the key sources of their problems and show them how they can most effectively use our products and solutions to improve their performance.  And if done right, provide them a feedback loop that actually shows them measureable results illustrating their improvement over time. 

The better an understanding all of us in this industry have about the biggest problems, key measurements, and most effective solutions, the better we'll be able to serve our customers.  So over the next few weeks I'm going to spend some time asking others involved in this area what they see as the most important points in those areas and sharing their input both here and with IORG members.