Au revoir, e-mail! And this from an IT boss

Thierry Breton, chief executive of IT services company Atos SA, refuses to e-mail, which, he says, cannot replace the spoken word. The bon mot, it seems, is best delivered in person.

Unlike some, I believe the French are to be admired.

They have a sense of life's priorities. They occasionally snub their noses at gauche Americans. And their foie gras is first-class.

So I will not be stepping onto the philistine bandwagon of criticism which has greeted the news that Thierry Breton, chief executive of Atos SA, hates e-mail so much that he is doing away with it in his company.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Breton would rather people communicate with him by visiting him, calling him or sending him a fluffy carrier pigeon with parchment in its beak.

CC Sean McEntee/Flickr

I might be mistaken about that last part. For yes, indeed, he said he prefers texts. Still, some might find it odd that he is so pungently against e-mail, given that his company, headquartered just a few kilometers from the Eiffel Tower, offers IT services.

But Breton, who has beautifully unruly gray hair, told the Journal: "E-mails can never replace the spoken word." Well, neither can the collected works of Scotty McCreery. But no one (other than the hugely sane) would consider excising his little country ditties from their world.

It seems that, perhaps, Breton's stance is one of many that he is taking in order to make his company a little different. And it's not as if by eradicating e-mail his employees really will have to talk to each other face to face.

For e-mail will be replaced by IM and what the Journal describes as "a Facebook-style interface" -- which sounds so very, very playful.

One of the biggest problems with e-mail is how much employees get and how much of it -- the vast majority -- is either entirely irrelevant or someone simply attempting to showcase how hard they are working.

E-mail should not be an everyday medium. It should be confined to specific, enjoyable things: notifications from your favorite online stores, poems from lovers whom you met while tipsy, and confirmations of flight bookings so that you can escape work.

I am delighted that one forward-thinking businessman has been bold enough to appreciate that.

 

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