Need your input on enterprise email

by Volker Weber

Despite Enterprise Social Networks and Instant Messaging, there is a renewed focus on email. Vendors have realized that many workers live in their inbox, whether it's in Outlook, Notes or other clients. Google organizes your inbox in Inbox, Microsoft has added Clutter, Sweep, and more recently Groups; IBM made a big effort with Verse.

Please tell me, if and how any of these efforts help you manage your email? How do you deal with the ongoing stream of messages. Do you flag mail, do you organize them in folders, how do you triage your mail? Do you ever delete mail, do you have to delete to stay within your quota? How do you keep track of emails that cannot be answered immediately? Do you use todo lists, inside and outside of your mail client, do you set unanswered emails back to unread status?

There are so many ways to deal with these issues. I'd like to learn from you. Don't feel obliged to comment in English. Use German if you like. Or send me email if you don't want to comment in public.

Btw, this is what I do. I do not file, but I archive. I do not flag but I use filters to tag mails. I strive for inbox zero; it is never longer than one page. Anything that is still in my inbox requires an answer. My mails are short and hardly ever directed at more than one person. None of the new technologies work for me. I need a flat inbox with new messages at the top.


We use Google Apps at work but I prefer the Mailbox client than the traditional gmail client (I should get used to using Inbox but there's not enough differentiation with Mailbox to force the switch).

I don't tag or flag or filter - I only archive, delete or reschedule (ie. make disappear till some other time in the future). If I need to find an email that I've archived, I search.

I try to get my inbox down to <10. Have been struggling a bit over the last few days so now it's over 40 but that's unusual.

For me this requires regular but small interactions with email. Anything that doesn't require a response can be archived or deleted (I guess I could archive everything as I have plenty of space but it's hard to break that habit). If I don't have time to compose a reply now then it remains in my inbox, if I need to review at a later date then I reschedule the email.

I work in an in house IT department so I can afford to be ruthless with email, if I accidentally archive something that I should have paid more attention to then it is rare that it comes back to bite me. If it's important, I'll get pinged on slack or get a face to face. I would guess that if you are a provider of services to clients then you'd be a bit more careful than I am.

I agree on short emails, putting anything long, like a proposal, into an email is a mistake.

Kieren Johnson, 2015-09-24

So, it seems that my workflow is very similar to yours, Volker.
First environment: Corporate mail server on Exchange, Client Outlook 2013, Mobile on BB 7. Quota used to be 500mb, recently upgraded to 4 GB. Enterprise social network on Yammer, also rather recently introduced.
My Inbox is my to-do-list. Also strongly driven by Zero-Inbox approach. I use "drag and drop" to convert mails into appointments a lot if action at a particular point of time is required. Using 4 column view in outlook (Folders / 1-line message headers, fonts size reduced to 7 pt / Message preview / calender+agenda view).
No further tools running on top of it. Large and deep structure of subfolders underneath Top-Level Inbox. Using filters to move Alerts and System messages automatically to specific subfolder. Subfolder sequence defined by naming like "10 - Client", "20 - Internal",.... so that I can sort by name. This folder structure shows on BB as well. Once mail is read and no action is required, it gets moved to the subfolder immediately, no matter if in Outlook or on BB.
In times of heavy traffic, additional rule get activated to move all "cc" mails into a separate folder - this get read only later. Spam, unwanted ads, etc... all get their own rule to be deleted upon arrival.
For each year, I have a separate PST-File. Every once in a while, I start achieving and move everything older than 2 weeks to PST-file (with now bigger quota rather once every 6 to 8 weeks, before it was running daily and moved everything older than 2 weeks).
Categories and color mark-up only used in calendar, there heavily.
Also using favorites and search folders to generate quick access to specifc senders/ topic on top left corner.
But net-net: In the evening, never more mail than I can see without scrolling - otherwise I have no rest at night.

Jens Nullmeyer, 2015-09-24

everything in my inbox still needs attention. I do not rely on unread marks. If its done, its out of my inbox. i do not delete, but a archive on a yearly basis.
I use a fulltext index to find what i am searching because folder sorting criteria tend to vary on a daily basis O:-)
This is independent from the product I do use and I don't feel that more recent approaches by whatever company or product really helps me to become more efficient.. I don't want/like products that forces me to change the way I organize my work and I don't want to loose control about stuff send to me personally.
It works for me for a long time...

Christian Henseler, 2015-09-24

Vorab die technischen Details - ich bin einer der zuständigen Admins der Mail-Umgebung:
Mailserver ist Domino 9.0.1, die von mir genutzten Clients sind Notes 9.0.1 am Arbeitsplatz, unterwegs nutze ich ein per Traveler angebundenes Windows Phone 8.1 und ggf. iNotes.

Ordner habe ich neben der Inbox gar keine.

Mails, die ich bearbeitet habe, fliegen aus der Inbox raus und falls ich doch nochmal eine dieser Mails brauche, so hilft die Volltextsuche. Meine Inbox beinhaltet selten mehr als zehn Mails, aktuell sind es sieben.

Bedingt eine Mail eine zukünftige Bearbeitung, so versehe ich sie entweder mit einem Wiedervorlagedatum oder wandle sie ggf. in einen Kalendereintrag.

Gelöscht werden von mir nur zwei Arten von Mails, der Rest bleibt im Mailfile, bzw. wandert irgendwann ins Archiv:

Sofern es sich um Status-Reports (Domino, TSM-Backup, VMware etc.) handelt, so werden diese per Mail-Regel mit einem Ablaufdatum versehen und anhand dessen bei der Archivierung gelöscht.

Spams, die hin und wieder mal durch den Filter kommen, lösche ich direkt.

Marc Henkel, 2015-09-24

We use Notes in our company. We are using an automatic mail archiving, so each mail coming in or leaving a mailbox is put in the archive. Attachments, Objects and large text is stripped out of the original mail in the users mailfile after a few months and replaced by a link to the archived document.

My email volume ranges between 10 and 30 new mails per day.

I use the inbox as my to do list. If the mail is done there are two ways of handling the mail:
a) I remove it from the inbox folder, but keep it in my mailfile.
b) I delete the mail.
That depends on the importance and the content of the mail. Some mails just don't need to be kept.

If i work on the mail it will stay in the inbox with no modification. I don't use unread marks, in some rare cases i set a reminder ("Wiedervorlage" in german) if i will follow up later or on a certain date.

I don't use folders anymore, fulltext search is powerful and way faster if i need to find a certain mail.

Ingo Spichal, 2015-09-24

I use Google Inbox on every platform and I

"do not file, but I archive. I do not flag but I use filters to tag mails. I strive for inbox zero; it is never longer than one page. Anything that is still in my inbox requires an answer. My mails are short and hardly ever directed at more than one person. None of the new technologies work for me. I need a flat inbox with new messages at the top."

Matthias Schumacher, 2015-09-24

Externes Mailpostfach auf IMAP-Basis, wird von mehreren stationären und mobilen Clients abgefragt, INBOX mit einem Unterordner ARCHIV. Was gelesen und bearbeitet ist, wird in ARCHIV verschoben, der Rest ist ToDo. Alle E-Mails in ARCHIV, die älter als sieben Tage sind, werden vom Mailstore-Server nach Hause geholt und extern gelöscht. Archivsuche bis 1994 zurück geht per IMAP auf allen Clients. Flags/Tags/Unterordner habe ich noch nie benutzt.

Nils Michael Becker, 2015-09-24

I pretty much live in my inbox as well but I do not archive. I flag important messages instead so I can easily sort them and know what I have to work on. I only have a couple of folders, most of them relate to automated messages (travel expense process, newsletters, etc.). I rarely delete messages because both my private and my business account have enormous quotas. For task tracking, I am using two simple tools: my calendar (a whole day event with my todos which I carry from day to day) and Wunderlist (what an awesome tool).

Ingo Seifert, 2015-09-24

Working in a big blue company as a provider for another company. Therefore I am having two mailboxes:

- Notes and Verse - you can use both concurrently. I am still trying to decide. Do not use local notes installation for mail anymore (at least try to)
- The other one is O365 with Outlook 2013

For both, it is like this:
Inbox is to do. The target is to have the count as low as possible, I prefer not to have to scroll. ATM, this is not possible, still I survive. I do not file anymore but delete (mostly automatic mails) or archive. When searching, full text it is. No new technologies for me. If needed, drag and drop into appointment.

For private mails, it is the same approach. Empty inbox, archive or delete whatever is not needed in the inbox.

Interesting, how people here seem not to using the new stuff?

Hubert Stettner, 2015-09-24

You might find some ideas on this topic here:

And you could be the first to leave a comment. :)

Bert Oberholz

Bert Oberholz, 2015-09-24

I do not file either, I don't use tags, I strive for inbox zero as well. I only rely on search to find something. Works great on Google and yes, it also worked great for me in Notes :) Anything in my inbox requires an action, not necessarily an answer. I send emails to myself for todos, I don't use todo lists anymore, but I put stuff on my calendar, or in my inbox. My inbox is usually <10 messages. I use threading, but I like the way Google does threading, not Outlook. In Outlook I always turned that off and used a flat list. Notes had the same issue with threading that Outlook has. It's just implemented to be somehow weird and not as useful as the way Google does it.

Gerhard Poul, 2015-09-24

We use Outlook 2007 with Symantec Enterprise Vault. There is my personal mailbox and I'm partially responsible for two shared mailboxes.

For my personal mail:
- If I can delete it on the spot I do so
- If I the email is asking me to act, I forward it to OmniFocus on my ipad/phone.
- If it is related to a specific issue I'm working on I put it in a folder. I limit myself to 5 such folders
- If I'm not sure, I leave it and it will eventually get archived. Occasionally I will delete a couple hundred emails from my mailbox that have been archived.

For the shared mailboxes I do a bit less. Still send actions to OmniFocus, but the remainder I leave and allow it to slowly archive. Nothing gets deleted.

We have quotas on the mailbox sizes (500mb I think) but none in the archive.

Andy Reimer, 2015-09-24

This is good. Please keep it coming.

Does anybody use any of the new features like automatic classification with Clutter or Inbox. Analytics in Verse, harrumph?

Volker Weber, 2015-09-24

As an email administrator, I see staff who create a folder per customer or vendor, and a folder per project.
Some people have as many as 6600 folders. Many of the folders have no mail from the past year in them since they no longer manage the client account or vendor relationship,
or the emails relate to a past project.

Many people treat their mail file as a filing cabinet even when one or more document management system exists either in-house or in the cloud.
Many of the requests I get are related to how to make their mail file more like a document management system (for example, how do I meta-tag an attachment in an
email so that they are linked to records in the financial accounting system). While there may be messages that should be kept as a business document because they set a project document
or proposal into context, I don't see the value in keeping the message separate from the document management system the organization has adopted.

Jay Marme, 2015-09-24

Recently - yesterday - I disabled Clutter on my private Office 365 Exchange account.
It was not working properly and I must admit I didn't want to train it. My private
mailbox is also not busy enough for this kind of automation to be really effective.

We will migrate to O365 from on-premise hosting in thr office soon. Let's see.

Currently I live in my Inbox as well. Everything that needs a response is
in the inbox. Everything else is filed. I have multiple folders and wish it
would be less - I think I still live with the same structure I created a decade
ago. This makes it work for me and probably only for me. I rarely flag for follow-up or stuff like that. I strive for Inbox Zero and reached it until I left for
a 4-week vacation. Since then I am struggeling....

Oliver Barner, 2015-09-24

@Volker: I use Inbox and while the automatic filtering is nice the only benefit I noticed is that I don't get bothered on my mobile phone each time a new newsletter from someone is dropped into my inbox. Otherwise the classification is kind of useless, but this is a nice benefit I really enjoy.

Gerhard Poul, 2015-09-24

No quota, no inbox management, just full text search and separate todo lists.
Todo lists live in UltraEdit and iPhone notes (archaic but effective ;-))
Once or twice a year I move stuff older than 6-12 months to archives.

In addition we do ongoing analysis of our email communication streams and other collaborative data correlated with SAP and CRM data.

Florian Vogler, 2015-09-24

30 GB Mailbox Size, since 15 years from Notes to IMAP and then to Exchange / Outlook (O365). Using folders and categories heavily. Never delete a mail except Spam. My private Google - thanks to full text index. Clutter off from day 1. Nothing sorts my mail except myself. Clutter is forbidden at the office, too. For legal reasons. If deadlines where missed, or similar - due to cluttered mail - heads would roll. Tested Gmail (Inbox) and in between. Crap. Google changes design and functions nearly daily and Inbox is - awkward. I don't trust Google's algorithms. has a incredible weak spam detection (way too many false positives) and an insane 'we have to make sure that you are you' security policy.

Richard Kaufmann, 2015-09-24

I use one giant inbox, with a select few folders for urgent items.
I never delete, and save all sent mail.
My mail if full-text indexed, including attachments.

I basically treat my mail database as a 'Google' search, by running boolean searches on it. I'm probably unusual, because as a programmer, I tend to think like a programmer when looking for mail, but it works great for me. I've also learned the search syntax of my particular mail client.

I've tried folders, but realized when things overlap subjects, it became too time-consuming to guess which folder something was in, and I was spending copious amounts of time just placing email into folders.

Mike McPoyle, 2015-09-24

I spent 15 years as a Notes/Domino developer. In that time I used Swiftfile and my own custom-tools to build lots of automation into my own mail-file. I would run a very hierarchical set of folders and automation to get mail into the right folder. I had full-text indexing and specialised views to find particular attachments (including by type), large messages and other mails of particular interest.

With this model I would treat Inbox as "Work in Progress" and folders/views/search as reference sources for mail I've already dealt with. No quota but archive and purge policies to clear out old mails that I've never revisited after processing.
(I still run my personal Gmail this way - but with less automation. Tried Inbox but didn't like the way it tried to anticipate what I needed/wanted so reverted to traditional Gmail).

For last 5 years I have worked as architect in a Java shop running (old versions of) Outlook-Exchange with a 2Gb quota. All my hand-made mail-tools are gone and I don't have time or inclination to learn C# and rebuild my tools. So, now I run a giant Inbox that simply archives to a local drive older unvisited email (archiving after 6 months unread keeps me safely under 2Gb). I use search views in mail and archive to find messages.

As a result my Inbox is slow to load and I often have to search both the mail and the archive to find things (and a mail thread might span both mail and archive). I don't have "big-picture" folders where I can go to get a quick view of all recent correspondence to do with a project or a customer. It is also harder to find particular attachments (though people are getting better at sharing links rather than attachments).

Also, the untidiness of the Inbox worries me - I like my orderly GMail Inbox with everything in its place and the Inbox being just the stuff that needs to be actioned. However, the volumes in my Gmail are small whereas my work email gets dozens of emails/day so impossible to keep tidy without automation (Outlook mail rules gets me a little way but not the fine-grained stuff I could do with Notes). I have not heard of Sweep or Clutter so I will investigate those tools.

Gordon Inkson, 2015-09-24

with o365, you get three passes on email. Spam, Junk, and Clutter. I have all three enabled and use them.

Spam - caught on the server and I get the email once a day. I scan it fast to see if it caught anything it shoudln't have. works great.
Junk - stuff that Spam didnt catch but locals rules does. Go through this once a week and mostly scan and delete. I have not had a false positive in here in months.
Clutter - anything that isn't spam or junk but that I don't read often. But when I have time, I probably want to scan through it. And you do have to train it. but that is easy - just don't delete form the folder, you have to move stuff you dont want in there back into your inbox.

I have the equvilent turned on in Gmail for my personal address. Verse doesn't have the same stuff. It's different - not better or worse.

Even with all three of those on, I get over 200 msgs a day in my inbox. And that doesn't count the stuff I am cc'd on that gets autofiled. I don't need to read most of it unless someone calls me up - or asks me in a mtg. I need to be able to read it as part of meeting prep. It matters that I can see it, but not that I act on it. And I am hoping that some of the tools coming - like 365 Groups and Watson Personal Assistant will add more value.

John Head, 2015-09-25

at work: 320 MB quota. Inbox is my todo folder. Deleting if I think that I dont need the information in the future. some folders but mainly for auto-generated mails (travel, troubletickets).
Auto-archive everything thats older than one month.
if a mail dont need further actions it is moved in one big folder.

If a mail cannot answered immediately or if i delegate the todo, i set a reminder for a specific date.

at "home": gmail. just reading and answering. i dont delete anything except ads. fulltext search is my help here.

Michael Klüsener, 2015-09-25

I use Notes 9.0.1/Traveler for business (and Google, Outlook, ... for private).

Besides my Inbox I have just one folder "old stuff" and an action button in my inbox, which files an email to the "old stuff" folder. Everything not interesting to me (incl. spam) ... click and away. Everything that I have to reply, I reply ... click and away. Everything that needs a follow up or is a todo, I can move to our corporate todo app with a toolbar click ... again click and away. Works gorgeous. I get about 50 mails a day.

Find an old email: fulltext search

Archiving: once in a year (we have no quota), all emails from "old stuff"

Pro's: very simple, very fast, well organized (GTD)
Con's: follow-ups can't be done on the move

Markus Haller, 2015-09-25

Auf der Arbeit: Exchange/Outlook mit 500 MB Quota. Im wesentlichen ein Ordner pro Projekt mit Unterordnern für ToDo/Erledigt/Wichtige Unterlagen. Im Eingang möglich nichts. Regeln, um unwichtiges Zeugs (Statusmeldungen usw.) direkt in Ordner dafür zu verschieben. Diese Ordner haben automatische Löschregeln nach X Tagen. Andere unwichtige Mails werden sofort gelöscht. Autoarchivierung, um mit der Quota auszukommen.
Die ToDo-Order+Inbox sind meine ToDo-Liste.
Früher hatte ich die Projekt-Ordner noch mit UnterordernUnterunterordnern unterteilt, das mache ich kaum noch, weil es zu aufwendig ist, über den richtigen Ordner nachzudenken. Volltextsuche ist wichtig und funktioniert recht anständig. In den Mails hängen auch sehr viele Word/Excel-Dokumente. Der reinen Lehre nach gehören die nicht in Mails, aber so habe ich in Outlook alles zentral zusammen. Die Alternative wäre, zu den Mails eine parallele Ordnerstruktur auf einem Filesystem aufzubauen und dort die Dokumente abzulegen - das ist aber unhandlich, dann ist ein Teil in den Mails und ein Teil im Filesystem. Die Mail ins Filesystem packen wäre denkbar, ist aber unschön.
FAZIT: Ich lebe in der Mailbox. Problem: Das Mailarchiv steht auf genau einem Rechner und ist daher nicht von überall zugänglich.

Privat: Ich habe eine zentrale große Mailbox (nicht bei google, sondern für Geld bei einem Dienstleister) unter meiner eigenen Domain. Im Laufe der Zeit habe ich etliche Mailaccounts angesammelt - hier mal getestet, da mal eine Mülladresse - die werden heute alle entweder per Weiterleitung zu meiner großen Mailbox geschickt oder von dort per POP abgeholt. Organisiert mit vielen Ordnern und vielen Regeln (Sieve). Gelöscht wird da nur absolut unwichtiges, alles andere wird einfach aufbewahrt.

Peter Muchmann, 2015-09-25

Auf der Arbeit und zu Hause derselbe Mechanismus. Inbox. Keine Folder. Was in der Inbox ungelesen ist muss noch bearbeitet werden.
Zum Wiederfinden verfügen beide Platformen (LN und über gute Volltextsuche.
Social Media notifications kommen per Mail rein. 2-3 x pro Woche schaue ich dann da rein.
Newsletter werden konsequent abbestellt, wenn ich sie 3 x nicht gelesen habe.

Stephan Bohr, 2015-09-25

Folders, folders and folders, approximately nearly 60 with a nested structure of 2-3 levels. One per project or topic (i.e. Finance, HR). I usually try to file emails as soon as I read them, but often leave emails in my inbox b/c I lack the time (while scanning my emails quickly), I'm travelling (and have to use Good) or that email still needs attention.

I usually try to keep me unread counter to zero by either reading new emails (20-50 a day) instantly, even just opening an email to flag it as read or delete them (i.e. newsletters) at once.

From time to time I flag emails (red flag button in Outlook) and more or less consistently set a date for Outlook to remind me later. This "encourages" me to actually file the email away, but sometimes still leave such flagged emails in my inbox for even more visibility.

Honestly I feel the urge to have a tidied inbox and therefore after a month or so, when the inbox - despite my constant tries of keeping it tidy - grows to something like 400 I spent an hour or so to file them.

The only add-ons I use are the QuickActions to sent emails to my most used folders (current projects) and a macro that asks me to select a folder for filing when sending an email. Unfortunately that of course only works with Outlook, not with Good. And yes, I even would like to "clean up" my Sent folder.

environment: Outlook 2013 on Win8.1 + (forced to use) Good on Android S5mini, 25 GB mail file limit, Exchange servers, Lync/Skype for Business

Don Rorlach, 2015-09-26

Notes/Verse im Office. mailbox von dropbox privat.

Viele Ordner nach Land/Kunde und ein paar nach allgemeinen Gesichtspunkten (HR, Career, Mentoring, People). Ein paar Spezialfolder 00-HolidayInbox (die schalte ich zusammen mit dem Out-of-Office an), 01-Action required, 02-Lesen 03-R&D.

Eine einmal geöffnete eMail bleibt nicht in der Inbox. Wenn die nicht in einen Ordner passt: "Remove from Folder" - dann bleibt es findbar (smartbutton damit es mit einem klick geht). Werbung und Vergängliches wird gelöscht.

Ein paar "Copy/Move to folder" rules

Inbox Zero

Stephan H. Wissel, 2015-09-28

Inbox = todo > kept to minimum emails as possible > In there longer than a couple of months then can't be that important so gets deleted or moved to folder.
If I reply to an email = delete original received email
Sent Items - never touched or organised
Use folders to organise email I want to keep
Email take more than 5 minutes to compose then I use phone call instead.
Only reply to those that need to know......don't use cc that much
Use combination of folders and FTI to find stuff I need.
Don't flag, colour coding or anything like that.
Use rules to keep crap out of Inbox eg -email contains unsubscribe = move to junk
No archive & No quota & 50+ emails per day
I use LN V9

Donald Maritn, 2015-09-29

Working for Big Blue, I use Verse almost a 100% for mail. I don't use folders anymore, delete mails I really don't need (notifications, certain information mails), unimportant stuff is just removed from the inbox and the rest stays read in the inbox as everything can be found through search (and folders are in my view just a means of finding stuff, when search is not good enough). Important stuff with actions needed on my side is marked as To Do. Most of this is done mobile.

Privately I have a probably 2 GB big inbox with mails back to 2008 where Spam get's deleted, everything is just marked as read, when read and stays for later finding using search.

Martti Garden, 2015-09-29

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