I'm posting this email article that I just got to see what kinds of reactions you all have to it. (Sorry I can't just paste in a link, but it's not online -- at least not yet.)

I admit that I rarely use IM. I actually look for reasons to get away from my desk and talk to someone face-to-face or call. I'll also add that I hardly ever leave voicemail; if the person isn't in, I'll send an email. And the only person who's left me vmail this year has probably been my wife. So I have mixed feelings about this article and want to see what others think -- especially since I know how strongly this group supports face-to-face and phone.

=============================================== -------- DEVSOURCE --------
September 14, 2006
The End of Voice Mail

A few weeks ago, I attended the Advisor Summits here in Phoenix.
Among the sessions I attended was a presentation on Lotus'
Sametime -- an enterprise instant messaging (IM) system that, the company says, offers security and other business-class features to firms who recognize that their customers are online, but don't want employees chatting with 'hottiebaby38'. Sametime's feature set isn't relevant here, but the long-term effects of instant messaging _are_.
Most of us work with other people remotely, at least some of the time... or are too lazy to go up to the 12th floor to see if a coworker is really at her desk.

What struck me about David Marshak's presentation were two
numbers: 3.5 million, and zero. The former is the number of chat messages sent within IBM, he said, and the second number is the total number of voice mail messages he has received in the last three months. Zero. None. Nada.

It's not that Marshak is unpopular. Rather, Marshak said, it's because noone would attempt to contact him by phone unless they knew that he was at his desk, and unless they already knew he was the right contact. And they achieve all that because of the immediacy of instant messaging and online "presence."

I've found the same to be true for myself. It's a lot faster to start an IM conversation (Hi. Are you there?), it's less intrusive (I'm in a meeting, give me a couple minutes), and it's usually more efficient (here, look at this link...). I used to spend half the day on the phone; now the loudest noise emitted from my office is the iChat bloop. "Culturally, we expect a response in a certain amount of time," Marshak explained. "And we escalate to the appropriate method of collaboration."

Yet, a lot of people -- especially developers -- are chopped off from such conversations. In the name of security, some companies prohibit any kind of IM use, which prevents developers from collaborating as effectively as they might. I understand their reasons, honest I do, but such policies are creating an obstacle in the evolution of our digital lifestyles.

How is IM changing your workday? And how do you cope when the company won't let you use it?

Esther Schindler
[email protected]

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


VM is far from dead.

Because Mr. Marshak works at IBM (who owns Lotus who makes SameTime), which is a terribly mail-centric place, he has decided that everyone else lives just like he does. He's wrong. And if he really WAS well connected, he would have PLENTY of voicemail, from people who have different communication habits than he does.

Rest assured, the sales forces of the world, those who travel regularly, and the customer service world, see this insistence on email as interpersonal avoidance masked as sender convenience, in itself a scourge. The technical world lives - and too often DIES - by e-mail routinely. The rest of the world goes right along talking on the phone.

Mr. Marshak would do well to remember the the true story about the lady in Manhattan in 1972, after Nixon defeated McGovern by winning 49 of 50 states, a HUGE landslide, saying, "But this just can't be! Everybody I know voted for McGovern!"

And if any of my associates or friends ever said to me that they "escalate to the appropriate level of collaboration", they'd learn what collaboration and escalation were... and how they were usually [i]inversely related[/i].



(CEOs use voicemail, too.)

cowie165's picture

My organisation doesn't use IM, and I'm quite happy about that :)

I share the same office as my boss and at times I've found it so easy to bounce problems to him for a solution, rather than grabbing a problem by the proverbials and making my own decisions. I guess that comes with the turf of being a high I, high S - I need more D.

Anyway, the thread is about voicemail. I love voicemail. I love that is it personal. I love that you don't need emoticons to compensate for your inability to properly express yourself with the written word (see my first sentence!). I love that it is less common these days so when the person I'm trying to contact has two VMs and eighteen emails waiting, the shorter list is usually tackled first.

Finally, I love it because you have one shot at it, rather than reading an email draft over and over!

Thumbs up to VM.

PierG's picture

In Italy Voice Mail is not used at all (at least, as far as I know).
What about other places around the world except the US?

AManagerTool's picture

Voice mail is very much alive. I got back from vacation today. I had 376 e-mails and 15 VM's. As one poster pointed out, guess which one I answered first. If you send me an e-mail, it tells me that your communication is something that can wait. IM might be slightly better than e-mail but not by much.

Nothing beats face to face and the human voice for conveying the most information in the least amount of time. You also get the nice side effect of building relationships.

[b]Face to Face > Phone Conversation > VM > IM > E-Mail > Mail [/b]

cowie165's picture

Nothing beats face to face and the human voice for conveying the most information in the least amount of time. You also get the nice side effect of building relationships.
I couldn't agree more.

[b]Face to Face > Phone Conversation > VM > IM > E-Mail > Mail [/b][/quote]

One of my favourite MT casts was 'Got Email?'. Forcing myself to work back from E-Mail to Face to Face has helped me immeasurably.

Great post.

[b]PierG:[/b] I am in Australia and from what I have read, I would say that Voice Mail is used as much as in the US. What do you use in it's stead?


PierG's picture

Well ... everything else except voice mail.
In fact a kind of voice mail is available when you are on the phone or your phone is busy or switched off but, I'm sure it's not the same.

Torch's picture

My opinion,

E-mail is for getting data to the proper person, not building or maintaining a relationship.

Talking face to face is how relationships are built, the phone is second to that when needed. So when I get a voice mail it is more important than the e-mail because someone wanted to speak with me and was unable to.

(to me) IMing is for socializing, and unprofessional.

Just my thoughts

cowie165's picture

I completely agree with Torch's points.

Another benefit of using the telephone is that you can usually receive an answer right away. Email tends to be 'filed' or marked for follow-up.

NB. Sure you are interrupting, but if they are in a meeting or do not wish to be disturbed, they should take the phone off the hook, and you can leave a VM :)

jprlopez's picture

Back when I used to be in the private sector for a Tech Company, I would get tons of VM.

In my current organization, I still get VM but more rarely...

Not because people resort to email or IM but because the default is up front and personal, if they cannot get you by phone they will get someone to tack a note on your computer's screen or march in themselves (if they are in the same office)

So is VM dead? I don't think so.


sfsales's picture


(to me) IMing is for socializing, and unprofessional.

Just my thoughts[/quote]

I use IM a lot of the day. I guess it really depends on your business model. I work with many people that need quick answers and they may already be on a call so they IM me with a question and get an immediate response. Our entire sales team uses it to communicate with each other as well.

It is a tool and one that should be added to your arsenal. Even if you don't use it regularly, it's a great way to make sure your employees and customer can reach you if needed.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


(Thank you for the fabulous Christmas card. BEAUTIFUL.)

I've always meant to ask you about your comment about voicemail not being used in Italy. Can you expand upon that?

What happens when you call someone - at the office, or at home, or on their cell - and they don't answer? Do you not leave messages for each other?