Why email attachments?

It seems that everyone now days wants to eliminate the poor old email attachment, and yet people still cling to this tried and trusted way of passing around files.  For example Adam recently posted:

Several people we’re not happy that in Notes 8.0, the ability to instantly email an attachment from the new document, presentation, and spreadsheet tools was missing.    We’ve listened, and in the upcoming release of Notes 8.0.1 there is a new “Send To” toolbar

But although IBM has listened Adam closes by saying:

Now of course you should not be emailing around attachments anyway, you should be storing files in Quickr!

I’m still a fan of attachments even though I have four choices for sharing files within the enterprise:

  1. I can publish to a web portal  (hardly ever use this, way too inefficient)
  2. I can publish in a Notes database (use this for frequently changing documents, because I can update offline and synch in the background)
  3. I can post on a blog or wiki (less efficient than Notes database, no offline publishing, slow to publish, but has comments)

and I find that I still use email a lot, mainly for the following situations:

  1. I email attachments when I know the recipient wants to take a document and extract some parts of it or evolve it for a new purpose.  It’s much easier for them to receive the notification and the attachment at the same time and I’m not interested in them updating my original.  I also like that I can provide comments and context in the email
  2. I email attachments when I want to create a one time access control list for a document, although I know (because we don’t use rights management in CSC) that people can send the attachment to others easily enough
  3. I email attachments when I want comments on a document, rather than changes to the original.  This is a very common situation for me, I rarely want people to edit my original it’s comments I want, and the best way to get comments from busy people who travel a lot is email because it provides asynchronous delivery of the email and the attachment, integrates well with most peoples task management, provides both the context and the document in one place, makes responding easy.
  4. I email attachments when I’m working across enterprise boundaries.  Expecting employees of other companies to remember user names and password for my systems and how to navigate them is just too much
  5. I email attachments to very busy people, regardless of the scenario, because I want to optimise their time not mine (or the IT resource costs) and the receive email, wait till they are online, click link, login, download document, open document workflow is way too inefficient
  6. I email attachments when I want to send slightly different versions or subsets of a document to different people, which happens quite often.

I avoid using attachments when:

  1. Documents are changing frequently and I want people to use the latest version
  2. I am doing a communication to a large number of people many of whom I don’t expect to ever take a look at the document

I avoid using documents at all (I use a wiki, blog, discussion database etc):

  1. When I want a small number of people to work collaboratively on the content of a document
  2. Gather information from many people especially where people will benefit from seeing other peoples information
  3. Encourage comments ad comments on comments

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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