E-mail hasn't totally replaced in-person meetings yet

E-mail hasn't totally replaced in-person meetings yet

BY RICHARD W. WALKER | GCN STAFF


The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on e-mail is based on a telephone survey of 120 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as information technology managers or computer specialists.
No doubt about it'e-mail has transformed the way people in government communicate.

'It's great,' an Army information systems security manager in Boston said. 'I like the instant communication and being able to avoid [regular] mail.'

In a recent GCN telephone survey of federal information technology managers and computer specialists, 95 percent of the participants said they use e-mail for daily business communications. And almost all of them said it has enhanced their ability to communicate.

'You can communicate easily and quickly, but you can also organize your thoughts first before sending,' said an Army computer scientist in Charlottesville, Va.

The extent to which e-mail has supplanted other forms of business communication is striking.

Survey respondents said it frequently replaces face-to-face meetings and has done away with a lot of hard copy memoranda, notes and other intraoffice paper communications.

E-mail also has largely pushed aside communications by telephone, regular mail and messenger service, the survey found.

But for many feds GCN talked with, there can be too much of a good thing.

'I get too many e-mails,' complained a Naval Undersea Warfare Center computer scientist in Newport, R.I.

Inundated with e-mail, some users said, it's easy to miss important messages, which sometimes get lost amid the sheer volume.

'I get too many messages that I don't need,' a Treasury Department audit manager said.

Some users lamented the detached nature of e-mail.

'It eliminates a lot of personal contact,' said a technical manager for the Marine Corps in California.

'You don't get instant feedback,' said a Naval Supply Systems program manager in Pennsylvania.

All in all, however, e-mail's benefits outweighed its drawbacks for most respondents.

And some found no negatives. Asked what he liked least about e-mail, a Transportation Department chemist in Cambridge, Mass., said: 'Absolutely nothing.'

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