Atos world headquarters
Atos SA CEO Thierry Breton really opened the #noemail discussion to a wider audience with his announcement that Atos, one of the world’s largest technology companies, would put an end to internal email within 18 months. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Press Release is that it is dated February 7, 2011 and is just this week making news and getting reactions. Less surprising is that the report is fairly clear and terse and to the point — yet, the interpretation of that release has been uniformly misread, misunderstood, and misreported.

Here’s the gist in a quote from the release:

In line with [Atos Origin]’s Wellbeing at Work Programme launched in 2009 to support its goal of being one of the best places to work, [Atos] has implemented a number of initiatives to improve communication and information sharing across its organization For example, it is encouraging the use of tools such as Office Communicator and has set up social community platforms to share and keep track of ideas on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through to sales. Initial feedback is that these type of tools reduce email by between 10 and 20% immediately.

Information overload – the facts:

  • By 2013, more than half of all new digital content will be the result of updates to, and editing of existing information
  • Online social networking is now more popular than email and search
  • Middle managers spend more than 25% of their time searching for information
  • 2010 : Corporate users receive 200 mails per day, 18% of which is spam

So far so good. But after a panic and overreaction this past week, Thierry Breton was on BBC explaining the program largely by quoting or restating the same information that can be found in the February 2011 press release.

One thing not much noticed in the US press is that the driver for #noemail isn’t a capricious decision by Breton, but a suggestion from an employee-run study group. The company is made up of young people and getting younger as it grows. As studies cited earlier in this blog show, the kids don’t get email. Especially clunkers like Outlook.

This is part of a global initiative that we initiated in ATOS almost three years ago called “Wellbeing At Work” – a knowledge network made up of new talents in the company.

Their mission, in addition to their normal job, is to provide new ideas to enhance working conditions.

They put on the table the fact that most of the young people that we were hiring were not using email anymore after graduating from universities.

They were instead mainly using instant messaging tools and social networks like Facebook – and for most of them, when they joined Atos it was first time they had ever worked with internal email tools like [Microsoft] Outlook.

One note of clarity and of amusement: Breton supports external email (clarifying part). His email as posted on his bio page is a generic company email addy.