According to a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute, the average American worker spends 28% of the workweek reading and answering email. The report didn’t specify which departments they polled, but if you ask anyone in the F&A department, many people might respond that they strive for a mere 28%.
For finance professionals, trying to stay on top of email is a losing battle. Just as you read and reply to one, another one (or two) pours in. And the very act of replying can be self-defeating as it inevitably results in a response email, increasing the futility of Inbox Zero.
Another part of the problem is that email is addictive. The anticipation or rush of new emails can trigger a surge of the chemical dopamine, a key player in our information-seeking behavior.
Perhaps even worse, email can dumb us down when it comes to performing our work. Neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin is quoted as saying: “When trying to concentrate on a task, an unread email in your inbox can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points.”
If all this sounds frighteningly familiar in your F&A department, it might be time to consider putting this atop the New Year’s resolution list: Break the email habit.
F&A and the Email Love Affair
Email has its time and place. Neither of those involves file sharing and workflow tracking. Yet most finance departments continue to use email for both those vital functions. And it’s not working out.
Most F&A professionals begin their day by tackling a seemingly endless list of emails, desperately trying to sort the urgent from the slightly less urgent messages. We’ve all been hardwired to jump whenever the inbox “ping” sounds and, as a result, are constantly checking and rechecking our inbox. This type of “email rubbernecking” just adds to daily stress levels and distracts people from work that requires their full concentration, opening up the opportunity for more errors.
Email Dysfunction: A Relationship Gone Wrong
There are other issues with an overreliance on email. From overlooked messages to incidental CC list omissions, email senders have no simple way of tracking tasks or confirming completion. The only way to monitor progress is by sending yet another email to inquire.
Then there’s the staggering inefficiency of sharing files. When multiple parties are working on a common file, email leaves the door wide open for version control problems, resulting in accuracies, lost time and costly errors. It’s also a waste of resources to store multiple versions of the same file across the organization’s network.
So what’s the answer? When it comes to email, how can finance avoid repeating the same mistakes in 2017 that they’ve made in the past?
Resolution: The Portal Solution
The answer is simple: F&A departments should move away from email and instead embrace a portal. Yes, email has its uses. But a portal is vastly more efficient and effective for information sharing, workflow monitoring and interdepartmental communication.
By streamlining and centralizing information, you can ensure accountability within the F&A department and create a more efficient workflow and transparent process for all involved. Not only that, but without the stress and distraction of email, productivity will improve and accounting tasks will be more accurate.
To learn how Sutherland can help you make 2017 the year that your F&A department pulls away from email and embraces efficiency and effectiveness, contact us today for a free assessment of your current practices.