One Company’s Quest To Eliminate Email


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In 2011 the Chairman and CEO of Atos, Thierry Breton, publicly announced that he was on a mission to become a zero email company by 2013 (at least as far as employee communication and collaboration was concerned). When he announced this a few years ago it’s safe to say that their were plenty of cynics and skeptics, after all, how could a global information services company with over 76,000 employees in 47 countries get rid of email? However, Thierry realize that email is not an effective way for employee to work, collaborate, or communicate, instead it was decided that a shift towards more collaborative platforms was required.

This infographic helps tell the story of the Atos zero email initiative:


He [Mr. Breton] estimated that barely 10 per cent of the 200 messages his employees received on an average day were useful, and that 18 per cent were spam. Managers spent between five and 20 hours a week reading and writing emails.”

The article went on to say that,

“When 300 Atos employees measured their email traffic for a week, they found they had sent or received 85,000 messages. Within Atos, 73 per cent of employees estimated they spent more than one quarter of their time managing email, and 82 per cent said they had trouble keeping on top of it. Most importantly, the majority felt this time was wasted and added no value to their day or to the company.”

Clearly these numbers are a bit scary and demonstrate clear justification for the need to go email free. So, three years later, how is Atos doing with their initiative? Well, they aren’t email free yet but Gartner recently did a report on them and here are some recent numbers.

  • 2013 operating margin is 7.5, up from 6.5 percent in 2012. Free cash flow increased year over year from €267 million to €365 million, earnings per share increased more than 50 percent, and selling, general, and administrative costs declined from 13 percent to 10 percent. It’s hard to give all of this credit to email reduction but it is correlated.
  • Atos did reduce email by 60% going from 100 email messages per inbox per week to just under 40 by the end of 2013. The average number of internal email messages dropped from 100 per mailbox per week in 2011 to fewer than 40 by the end of 2013, a 60 percent reduction. The goal was to reduce this by another 20% by mid 2014 but I wasn’t able to find any current numbers on if this actually happened
  • Through using their own internal collaboration platform (called blueKiwi, which they acquired a few years ago) they now have over 74,000 employees who are participating in around 7,500 communities and posting nearly 300,000 times per month and viewing almost 2 million pages per month.

Through their report Gartner identified four key practices to help with major corporate culture change (in this case, getting rid of email)

Clear and compelling justification– Managers were very clear and specific with how zero email impacts employees and what this initiative means to how they work. The effort must make sense for employees as individuals, a point that I have been driving across for several years!

A sense of urgency– Setting a clear deadline and making this effort public and tangible was key.

Big investment and complete commitment– Atos tied bonuses and performance evaluations to the zero-email effort (10% of an executives bonus was tied to this). Gartner estimated that Atos is investing 500x more than what a typical company invests in their collaboration efforts. This might sound like a lot but I can tell you from personal experience that most of companies I have worked with or researched are actually under investing in their programs!

Collect success stories– Atos collected and shared as many success stories as they could. One story came from a service desk in Brazil where it was reported that customer issues were resolved up to 30% faster as a result of this effort and that both employee and customers were happier.

Clearly what Atos is attempting to do falls on the “outlier” scale but it should be an inspirational call to action for other organizations around the world to take steps towards creating a more collaborative organization where communication doesn’t depend on technology that was invented in the 70′s. As I’ve long stated, we shouldn’t have to live in 2014 and work in 1975. If a global organization with 76,000 employees can reduce and almost eliminate email, than so can your organization.

Now…go check your email.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


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