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Email is not a form of project communication - CITI
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Email is not a form of project communication

So the attention-grabbing headline is something that I have found hard to come to terms with, a colleague who has retired always used to say it – and it infuriated me as an IT professional because I find email great for:

  • Carefully composing communications with detailed analysis and reports
  • Creating an evidential audit trail with clear gudiance that can be referred to later
  • Giving timely updates without interfering in others busy schedules
  • Timeshifting communication between disparate teams

But, and it’s a big but, I have found an increasing number of arguments in favour of my colleagues claim that email is not a form of project communication!

  • Information in your email can get missed / misinterpreted
  • Some people get a deluge of email and yours might not even get opened
  • Not everyone will sit on email waiting for what you think is urgent information to appear
  • Variety of technical reasons why your email might not even be delivered to the recipient

Added to this, lengthy emails might get opened and be seen to be “too much information” to digest or read right now – then get forgotten about because they are already marked as read. What you think is urgent might be perceived very differently by the recipient – or responses “cherry picked”.

So, should we all ditch email and revert to good old fashioned meetings / telephone calls / post-it notes / carrier pigeons – or embrace more modern ways of communication like instant messengers / chat sessions / video conferencing / online workflow portals and the like?

Well, it depends…selecting the right project communication method in this modern multi-media world will depend on a number of factors:

If it is mission-critical to the project, consider just talking directly to your team – either in a formal meeting, or individually ad-hoc. Without equal, the most effective way of making sure the message is received and understood – followed by video conference and telephone.

Political or emotional decisions might be handled best face-to-face on an individual basis – nuances in tone or facial expression can make a massive difference if trying to steer key stakeholders, and emails are notorious for misinterpretation!

Just need to convey information or statistics – email or instant messaging might be best, but try to keep it brief as short messages work better! Try to include a call to action, so that you know the information has been read and understood.

So I would argue email is still a form of project communication – but should never be used as the ONLY form of project communication. You should select and agree appropriate communication channels with your project team up front, and seek guidance on auditable project communications from your PMO / programme / portfolio management team – or get in touch with us if you have a specific communications problem you are experiencing, chances are we have come across it before (there is a challenge!).


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