My colleague Alan Lepofsky pointed me to this blog entry on CIO.com last week, where Ben Worthen waxes unapologetically about his use of gmail to process corporate e-mail:

Last week I configured my CIO email account to forward a copy of every new email to my Gmail account. I then configured my Gmail account so that emails addressed to my work address are automatically sent to one folder and emails addressed to my personal address go to another. I also set it up so that I can send emails from either address through the Gmail interface; whenever I compose a new message I just choose which me is sending it.
I'm not sure what version of gmail Ben is using, but the version I use for personal e-mail doesn't seem to have any folders.  Its filtering capability is limited to
  • Skip the Inbox (Archive it)
  • Star it
  • Apply the label: [label]
  • Forward it to:  
  • Delete it
I actually like the fact that gmail doesn't have any folders...I tend to use gmail search on the flat view, just as I do in Notes.  I'd like to show Worthen how full text search works in Notes, because he justifies his use of gmail vs. Notes thusly:
Well, Gmail is just a much better email application than Lotus Notes, our in house application. Gmail is fast, searchable, has a ton of storage, displays emails with multiple responses in one line, the list goes on and on. These are all features that I want for my work email. In fact, I feel like I need them in order to be productive.
Well, I think it's like anything, there are pluses and minuses.  Has anyone found the equivalent of the "view unread" button in gmail?  I can't.  And personally, there are a bunch of other features that Notes has that are much better than Gmail.  Offline.  Corporate directory integration.  I could list a hundred more.

The real issue here is, what's the impact of Ben's individual decision to use an outside, individual-oriented mail system instead of his corporate mail environment, whatever that is?  Worthen says
My feeling that resolving the conflict between the need for control over information and the need to let employees have access to tools that will make them the most productive is going to be the next great challenge for IT departments. And the companies that figure out how to do this will not only have happier, more productive employees, but the IT department will be free to focus on forward thinking projects that could help drive revenue and innovation.
I think there's a balance that has to continue to be struck.  Having been in an IT organization where we had, circa 1993, standardized on Microsoft Word, I can recall all the issues we had with the CFO's assistant who insisted on using WordPerfect. Of course, the IT department reported into the CFO, so that influenced the supportability factor.  But we got tons of calls with "issues" with that person's desktop, way more percentage-wise than a typical user.  Did it really make the organization more productive?  Did it free the IT department to be forward-thinking?  No.  We were stuck trying to figure out how to support rogue users using corporate resources, representing the corporation in the way they thought made sense rather than the way the corporation decided made sense.

I totally get the trend of user-influenced IT, but I think it's still IT and that the IT department's architects and management are paid to know how to manage the organization's IT needs as a whole.  The overhead of supporting every user's individual choices has to be balanced with running a business.

Link: CIO Blogs/Ben Worthen - I'm violating our corporate email policy...and I love it!  >

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