Luis Suarez is a social computing and business evangelist at IBM, but don’t bother emailing him to ask about that. Or do – but he’ll search for you on the social networks and reply that way if he can. Because he announced four years ago that email was inefficient so he would be abandoning it, and has subsequently cut 98% of his emails out.
If a colleague tells you they get too much email the usual default response is to nod sagely and carry on as if nothing was ever going to happen about it. This isn’t good enough for IBM’s Luis Suarez, who announced in 2008 that he was going to cope without it.
“I am not the guy who killed email,” he says, which is what a lot of press and bloggers have called him. “I can see good use cases for it.” One of these is when something is confidential and needs to happen on a one to one basis, such as salary discussions with an HR team. But there aren’t many instances in which he’d choose to use it.
“You can’t build your online reputation with email,” he points out. In the same way you can’t check someone’s credentials as immediately – click through their name on a LinkedIn message and you have their CV. “Communication needs to have a context,” he says.
This is why, if you want to contact him, the best starting point is to enter “Luis” into Google and you’ll find him on the first page. You won’t find his email address but you’re likely to be able to engage through Google+ or Twitter (his preferred contacts) and IBM-ers can use the company’s own internal network.
Email, outside a couple of good uses which involve legally or ethically confidential material, is open to abuse, he says. “People play political games and power struggles with the CC and BCC buttons,” he says. “I’ve had that and I’ve blogged it – the whole conversation.” Email can too easily end up as a weapon people use to fight each other in a business, he says.
Social interaction is different. If he’s away, for example, and someone asks him a question through IBM’s internal social communication system, then because it’s visible to all of his contacts there’s a good chance someone else will answer. This isn’t taking advantage because he’s on holiday, he says during his presentation – pronouncing the word “holiday” very carefully in case any corporate types have forgotten the concept. He does the same to help colleagues. And of course if he responds to something then his answer is permanently available in IBM’s knowledge base – so someone may not have to ask next time, everybody has access to it and it’s a lot more open.
He enthuses a great deal and after our interview he asks everyone at his presentation to stop responding to emails, which will cut their workload down. It’s clearly worked for him – but you do wonder how many audience members will actually be that brave.
Luis Suarez’ keynote presentation video ‘Thinking Outside the Inbox…There is no WE in Email‘ from Unified Communications Expo is now available ondemand in the Unified Communications Online Video Library.
Luis on Twitter @elsua