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How One Company Reduced Email by 64%

How One Company Reduced Email by 64%

21.June.2015, 07:06

How One Company Reduced Email by 64%

If you’re going to achieve growth in the knowledge economy, your employees need to be able to quickly find people inside and outside the company whose expertise can help them solve critical business problems. That takes a highly effective communication tool.

Oh, we already have that, you might say: email.

Email is indeed good for enabling employees to communicate with colleagues they already know. But it hasn’t changed much in all these years, and it remains ill-suited for helping employees find experts they don’t know, particularly in other companies.

And as younger employees join the workforce, who are used to communicating with friends via Facebook and Twitter, they find it restrictive to have to rely on email at work.

Frustrated by these limitations, the global information-technology service provider Atos, headquartered in France, sought an internal collaboration system that would do away with email’s “closed” form of communication.

It acquired social-software maker blueKiwi and combined the acquired company’s application with two from Microsoft, creating a platform that allows individuals and teams, including those in partners and clients, to enter virtual “communities” where they can collaborate on complex projects.

The platform functions like a wiki, with members of a community — which might be based on a project, client, or topic — editing documents together and getting approval for changes from community members and other stakeholders. Each community has a volunteer leader who pledges to promote the community among colleagues. The platform ties together strands of communication such as messages and microblogs with discussion groups. It also helps participants maintain CVs that list past positions and projects, so that other community members can find people with needed skills.

The collaboration platform grew out of a 2011 announcement by Atos CEO Thierry Breton that the firm would become a “zero internal email” company over the next three years. Critics scoffed, but Atos took the challenge seriously, investing heavily in an alternative to serve its 86,000 employees in 66 countries. Gartner estimates that the company invested 500 times more than an average organization invests in social collaboration.

Despite the initial skepticism, by the end of May 2013 approximately 4,000 communities were up and running on the platform. By 2014, users had created more than 10,000 communities, some of which linked Atos to its business partners. By this year, 80,000 individuals were connected.

The investment is paying off. Atos employees now routinely use the platform for finding experts internally. For example, some of the company’s executives set up an internal “social help desk” to enable its SAP experts to increase their knowledge through exchanges with other SAP experts. The leader of this community of 2,000 members had previously tried creating the same function via email, but the SAP experts rarely read email queries, so askers weren’t getting responses. With the collaboration platform, Atos’s SAP specialists post a note with a question, and other experts within the community readily reply.

In another case, a corporate customer’s managers were expressing doubts about Atos’s value and were openly discussing dropping Atos and opening an internal IT-consulting unit. To increase the customer’s awareness of Atos’s contributions while improving communication with the customer, one Atos executive created a community that connected Atos employees to those working for the customer. By engaging with Atos’s experts directly through the collaboration platform, the customer’s executives exchanged knowledge with Atos, posted questions, and shared their experiences. This community helped the clients recognize that they were working toward a common goal with Atos. A better understanding of who they were working with at Atos also helped the customer’s executives to speed up problem solving. Thus the community helped Atos retain an important client.


Atos has grown through numerous acquisitions, and the platform has been helpful in enabling the firm to integrate its acquired companies. Atos finds that it now achieves a better level of integration, faster, than before the platform was implemented.

In the end Atos wasn’t able to hit that zero-email goal, but the platform did help the company reduce email by 64% — a big plus for employees who were suffering from email overload. Not only does the collaboration platform reduce email, it also enables community participants to filter content according to their individual needs and professional interests.

Atos’s experience is evidence that an effective collaboration platform isn’t just a tool for communication, it’s a key to achieving smooth, integrated growth and competitive advantage in the knowledge economy.

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