Thursday, September 07, 2006

Management Productivity Tool?

The other day, The Boston Globe had an article about a local start-up that's developed e-mail tracking and analysis software.

The Xobni software, which should be available for individual use Sept. 20 and is expected to be rolled out to businesses starting this winter, works by measuring the amount of time people spend reading and writing e-mails. From there, Xobni (that's inbox spelled backward) can chart when people send and receive e-mails, as well as how long it takes them to reply to messages (woe to the desk jockey who replies instantly to co-workers but takes hours to get back to the boss).
Much of the article talked about whether this would constitute yet another invasion of employee privacy, with a bit about whether anyone would actually pay for this capability, but I think a key point was missed: Just how worthwhile is it to have managers spending time reviewing e-mail usage reports? Personally, it's hard for me to imagine something less worth using management cycles on, unless it's monitoring bathroom breaks. Maybe it's worthwhile if you're managing lots of helpdesk/support people, but other than that...

It strikes me that most "e-mail problems" are solved by "sender-and-recipient pressure." Who wants to get flamed for sending a reply-to-all that should have been a reply to sender (or no reply at all)? Who wants a ticked-off boss appearing at their door to follow up on that e-mail you didn't respond to?

The guys who founded Xobni sound like very bright fellows, but I ain't so sure about this idea. To me it sounds like technology in search of a need.

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