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A New Year’s Resolution We Can All Get Behind

by Dave Hannon

December 29, 2010

Dave Hannon

I’m a big believer that mobile technology is changing the way we work, play and think. The iPhone opened my eyes to how much change has come and is coming from mobile.

I’m just not convinced all of those changes are for the better.

I know, sacrilege, right? But despite all the amazing positive change that I’ve seen mobile facilitate, I still have a specific beef with mobile and, it being the dawn of a new year and all, I thought now would be a good time to bring it up.

My mobile beef dates all the way back to the very early days of the BlackBerry in the enterprise. I had a superior at a previous job who was not a great communicator. Emails would fall into the abyss, very often out of the office, voicemails piled up. I think you know the type. My employer at the time chose to issue BlackBerries to managers in an effort to improve communication. I think you know the rest of this story. I got more responses from this person, but many of them were less-than-adequate and some were downright indecipherable.

I’d send a clear email to several people with three points for review/discussion and the reply from this person would come back “this sounds good. Be sure to CC Allen.” I don’t know which part “sounds good.” I don’t know an Allen, first or last name. And I don’t know how to act on this reply. (True story, I resent the original email about a week later and got a completely different but equally confusing reply. Eventually, after riding in a car this person was driving, I realized they were mostly rep lying to emails at red lights and stop signs, so it all made sense.)

It’s a classic example of what I’ll call Mobile Malaise. After four emails (two sent by me, two replies), we were really no further along than before started. Is this what mobile is all about? I don’t think so.

I know mobile users are more aware of this now than they were in the early days of the BlackBerry. I know there are laws addressing the driving part of that scenario. I know many of the mobile business apps and tools from the smart software developers at companies like SAP are taking this all-too-common scenario into account. I’m all for apps that require less typing and more clicking.

But a LOT of business communication (in fact, most, I would argue) is still done by email, and more of that email is coming from mobile devices with their tiny keyboards. So the issue still rears its ugly head now and then. And if you’ve tried to communicate electronically with anyone under 20 recently, you know texting is the primary form of communication and it’s a language all its own. How will those trends impact business communication in the next decade?

So I, for one, am making a new year’s resolution here and right now: I resolve not to write or reply to emails on my mobile device without re-reading it and making sure what I’ve written is intelligible to the other person(s). I resolve not to short-cut my emails with “texting” language (I’m an editor, after all).

And I resolve NEVER to text or email while operating heavy machinery of any kind. But that should go without saying.

Who’s with me? If 2010 was the “Year of the Mobile”, let’ s make 2011, “The Year of the Well-written Mobile Email.” (Okay, I have to come up with a catchier slogan).

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Lucy Swedberg

9/25/2013 8:51:09 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Dave. I've always thought that the standard "Please excuse brevity and typos" appendage to emails sent from a BlackBerry is a cop-out. But I also think that we, as editors, are outnumbered. There's something about the speed and conciseness of a mobile email that busy business and IT execs will forever latch onto, now that they've known it. It's the new pace of business, and I expect that we'll see that pace accelerate even more as new mobile business apps emerge. (As a side note: I better ask my 13-year-old nephew to give me some texting lessons; I'm slow as molasses!)