I know that for most the idea of getting rid of their inbox for good is simply a pipe dream (it's certainly my pipe dream). But until that dream comes to fruition we need to learn how to make that inbox more useful. For those who also use SharePoint in their organization, harmon.ie offers a tool to do just that. And they have the stats to back it up.

Taking the SharePoint User Challenge

The SharePoint User Challenge is something that harmon.ie has done for the last couple of years. It's like contest that gets users to run through some tests to see how much faster they can get information into and out SharePoint from their email as opposed to directly using SharePoint.

And the stats are interesting:

  • Published email messages on SharePoint in 8 seconds using harmon.ie versus 48 seconds without
  • Saved email attachments to SharePoint (8 seconds versus 48)
  • Sent links to SharePoint documents (8 seconds versus 40)
  • Uploaded a local document to SharePoint and send a link (15 seconds versus 60)
  • Found a colleague’s profile and status from email (9 seconds versus 36)
  • Identified and contacted a needed in-house resource (50 seconds versus 251)
  • Viewed version history and IMed the last person who edited a document (55 seconds versus 223)

So according to their tests, harmon.ie + SharePoint is 4-6 times faster than simply using SharePoint alone.

What Does This Mean for Email?

Everyone keeps saying that email is dying and that at some point in the future (not sure if that's a distant or near future), email will be replaced by one or more social tools that we are all keen to use. For me, I don't see that happening.

Which means I do need some tools that will integrate well with my inbox, things like:

  • Creating to do tasks from emails for myself and others
  • Saving important emails, so I can delete the rest and have a clean inbox and not a million folders
  • Storing documents in a central repository, sending links to co-workers

And yes, I was an Outlook/SharePoint user, harmon.ie can help me do that stuff. So it's definitely something worth looking into (note the free version you can pick up).

I think that main point these harmon.ie SharePoint User Challenges point out is that your inbox doesn't have to be hell and there are ways to make it work efficiently for you, you just need to take the time to set them up. And if we can get email to be more efficient, then why do we need to get rid of it?

What Does This Mean for SharePoint?

Harmon.ie quotes stats that point to low SharePoint user adoption because of the process (aka number of clicks) involved to get info into and out SharePoint. And this is a bit of problem for SharePoint. You do have to click around a lot to get information into SharePoint and send it to someone else. So having a product like harmon.ie integrated into the email app is a great way to get around this.

But it doesn't necessarily resolve SharePoint's bigger problem: poorly designed (or complete lack of) Information architecture. So while it may be easier to get documents, emails and tasks into SharePoint, if the IA sucks, then the bigger problem of findability is still looming over users heads.

I am curious to see what the next version of SharePoint brings in terms of better usability. Is it possible that Microsoft gets that it has a user experience problem that is contributing to low adoption rates? Will it implement some new functionality to streamline the basic work processes most knowledge workers do on a daily basis? Maybe. But it's more likely that they will continue to look to the greater SharePoint ecosystem, of which harmon.ie is a part of it, to help resolve these kinds of issues. We'll see. That SharePoint future is looming closer every day.