Information overload kills productivity
Most business users, if asked to define information overload, could just point to their inbox. The average person receives 147 messages per day. Shockingly 48% of the messages are quickly deleted still leaving the average user with a whopping 75 messages to process.
Equally troubling, many of these emails are from customers, leads, or prospects, and can be useful, and in some cases, critical, to others in the organization. The most obvious example would be sales or transaction-related emails. Often these emails need to be readily available to your co-workers now and in the future.
360 view of your inbox
Even if you wanted to share your entire inbox (and who would?) the information would not be instantly available. Your co-workers would need access to your inbox, and they would need to know the search terms to use to find the email they need. Another common problem with the inbox is that employees come and go. It would be a nightmare to track all the important data across mailboxes that span current and ex-employees.
Giving a 360 view of your inbox (without sharing your inbox)
Other than sharing a mailbox what other options are there for making sure important information is available for everyone?
Some people still rely on spreadsheets or Google Docs and copy/paste their emails to track this data. While we’re a big believer in the concept of a connected spreadsheet this is not what we had in mind and getting data from your inbox to the spreadsheet is a complete waste of time.
The obvious solution is to provide this information in a place where it is available contextually to all users. Most companies today use some type of accounting system and/or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that is integrated with their accounting system. QuickBooks is one of the most popular (albeit low end) accounting packages in the world today and Salesforce is one of the most popular CRM packages.
Companies like NetSuite offer what is known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) which is really a suite of online applications that combine accounting, CRM, project management, warehouse management, and more, in a single package.
The beauty of an ERP is that the entire organization runs off it and the data in it is the single source of truth. Modern ERP systems can scale with your business allowing you to add modules and users only when you need them.
Share your emails where they are most likely to be relevant
Contextual email storage means having the information surface where it most relevant. As an example, a sales rep may have created an ‘Opportunity Record’ in their ERP. There are likely several conversations (email, phone, etc.) around this conversation, both internally and externally. If the organization is using a modern ERP like NetSuite users should standardize on where they want to track these conversations. Options might include the customer record, the contact record, or the opportunity record. Decide upfront and standardize so your users will always know where to go.
Deciding what to share?
Now that you have decided on where you will store important communications you need to decide what to share. Avoid the temptation to share everything. This will add clutter to your storage system adding additional work for your co-workers. Your co-workers will be more likely to use the ERP if the data is accessible and relevant. Do not fill your ERP with clutter by stuffing it with every communication
Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook Calendar are two of the most popular calendars. Your organization has likely standardized on one already. Your CRM or ERP may also have calendaring capabilities. Most users today prefer to create their events in their Google or Outlook calendar because it is just easier.
Like emails, important meetings (past, present, and future), should also be visible to others in your organization. These meetings should be memorialized in your ERP or CRM so that you and others in your organization can surface them where they are needed most.
A project manager may have a series of customer-facing meetings for a project. Storing these events on the project record would surface them in the right place. A sales rep may be working on an Opportunity and storing events on the Opportunity would surface them in the right place. An Account Manager may want to store events at the Contact or Customer level.
Like emails and events, there is a need to surface documents in the right place and with proper context. Organizations tend to standardize on a document management system like OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc. Other options include their CRM or ERP. NetSuite offers their own file cabinet for storing documents.
Cost, Portability, Ease of Use
Storage costs vary widely. Your ERP may store documents in a relational database which adds overhead (and cost) but also ensures the documents are surfaced in the right place. An example would be a signed customer contract stored on the customer record where is most likely to be searched for. Most ERP’s, however, do not provide an easy to use interface to manage files and folders. Storing your documents in your ERP also makes them less portable in the event you ever decide to leave your ERP.
When you choose a best of breed storage management system like SharePoint, Google Drive, etc., you instantly gain several cutting-edge features not available in your ERP. Microsoft, for example, allows users to share files for a limited period and can even block users from downloading them.
It is critical that your document management system allows you to surface your documents in the right place regardless of where it is stored. You may store that customer contract outside of your ERP but you will still need to ensure it is available from the customer record in your ERP.
Tying it all together with NetSuite and CloudExtend
We love the concept of an ERP like NetSuite that provides secure access to information in seconds. Organizations can simply add modules and users as their needs grow. NetSuite also has a strong partner system that allows companies like Celigo (CloudExtend is a Celigo brand) to deliver added functionality.
With an App like CloudExtend Outlook for NetSuite or CloudExtend G Suite for NetSuite end-users in an organization can quickly attach important, relevant emails, files, and events to NetSuite records making them available in the proper context.
Once this data is in your ERP we recommend that you explore the optimal way to view it. For example, the view in the figure below is available as a customer dashboard in NetSuite that displays selected activity types in descending date order. Users in the organization can open this dashboard view and see the latest activities and even drill down to the email or activity to get more details.
Likewise documents can be stored in a best of breed external storage system yet still be contextually available in the ERP.
About the Author
Chris Corcoran is the General Manager of the Celigo CloudExtend team. He has been with the company for over eight years and has twenty years of experience working in the NetSuite space. He was previously co-founder and CEO of Market Share, Inc., one of NetSuite’s first customers. He has helped hundreds of customers worldwide improve productivity and efficiency in NetSuite.