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SaaS applications start to unravel file and email frustrations 1

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Peter Thompson
Photo: Istock photo

I imagine some of you feel the same way as I do about problems associated with files and email attachments stored on local drives. Frustrated. I am sure some of you have experienced what I am going to highlight in this article. It leads me to a few examples of annoyances.

Frustration 1 – Version control management

It seems that we are always trying to deal with version control. It’s normal, we send emails with file attachments backwards and forwards to our colleagues seeking feedback. We are supposed to update the name of the file and/or track changes. Well, that’s if there is some unspoken understanding or company policy. Irresponsibly, there are people who don’t use track changes or rename files so you have no clue who did what. And then, you wait for someone to provide feedback on a particular file and all that time whilst you wait, you cannot continue on with the document in fear you will lose control of versions and end up slowly trying to compile the latest version in order not to re-edit something you’ve already updated.

Frustration 2 – The lost email files

Annoyingly, there is the constant searching for files in the email inbox that is incredibly frustrating and this issue only becomes more complicated with the more email addresses and devices you use. If you use an iPad or an iPhone, you can set up multiple accounts which is great for receiving mail but it’s a challenge when you try to work out why you cannot find an email that you sent to someone because you cannot remember which account you sent it from. Then again, maybe you just accidentally deleted it which means you have to search through multiple trash folders in order to find it.

Frustration 3 – The email storm

Another frustration is the continual growth in the quantity of useless emails. And to be clear, I am not talking about companies promoting their products or services. I am referring to being copied in an internal email loop related to topics that have none or little relevance to you.

And, whilst all of this on one hand is quite amusing, it can be incredibly time consuming and troublesome to the point of looking silly when you cannot find a message sent to a colleague. The entire growth in technology, in devices and software was supposed to make life easier rather than more complex.

Where does the problem start?

The problem starts with files and local applications. You see, files are static and detached from the application that uses them. You have to open the application locally in order to create, update or edit the file which is fine, as long as you have the application on the device you’re using. Even if you do have the application, as you move between devices you must recall whether you emailed yourself the working file. Was it created in Pages or Word? Is it in my iCloud, Dropbox or attached as an email? To which email account did I send it to? And it’s the occasion that you get it wrong and don’t have the latest version of the file, then you realise how inefficient all this has become.

SaaS to the rescue

Whether it’s a blog, an enterprise chat (see our article on how enterprise chat is changing business) or modern collaboration software, the concept of having threads relating to one particular topic where everyone can participate is really useful. The reason is that a user can subscribe to a thread and receive email updates if they choose to. Or, alternatively, they can visit the thread, have input as they choose or remain an observer. And as for the email loops, it’s a great step forward from being caught in an email storm where you are continuously copied in messages about a topic you aren’t interested in or is irrelevant.

Direct online commenting and editing of files

Gratefully, there is a growing trend in online software that uses web pages instead of email, preventing the need to have attachments and to have to sift through email in order to find files. Even if you want to remain with the use of static files because you favour a particular application, they can easily be attached to the thread. Another option is the growing list of online applications that prevent the need to attach files.

If you are looking for pure joy when it comes to the ability to work on different devices from multiple locations, then I recommend to check out Google Docs, Office 365 and Basecamp. Having the ability for multiple people to work on files at the same time, make updates and see who did what is a great time and nerves saver. If this is to spell the end of the file and email mess, it really is to be welcomed with open arms.

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About Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson founded GCOMM in 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Information Systems from Griffith University and his MBA from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Holland. He believes in building great teams of people, both in business and socially.
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  • vlada

    Wow, I can understand the frustration!
    However I would not dismiss files and local application just yet. Maybe your approach was simply wrong. Remember the time where a company had a centralised storage and no files were stored on local computers? There was only one copy of the file, everybody could access it, and everybody knew where it was located. And it could be accessed remotely through VPN if required. No need to send emails. In principle, sounds like a Google drive or apps. But Windows’ Explorer and Mac’s Finder both still offer much better functionality for content management and structuring of files and folders, than Google’s web interface. The move towards virtual offices and remote working definitely introduced the need for using the same files on different devices, but have you tried Google Docs on an iPad? That’s a frustration no. 4!