If you use Outlook, but have trouble keeping track of the glut of e-mail the Microsoft program collects, a solution may be at hand. The latest version of the ClearContext Information Management System (IMS) released this week, Version 4, extends the software’s ability to organize Outlook by priority and other criteria with three new key features.
First is the IMS Dashboard, which offers a consolidated view of e-mails, tasks, and appointments related to a project. Results can be pulled from multiple folders and data stores within and across Outlook and Exchange.
The second new feature, Alerts, lets users set reminders on contacts or e-mail threads so whenever there are unread e-mails in important threads or from important contacts, the system will proactively notify the user with a pop-up alert on those messages.
Lastly, is a Do Not Disturb feature, which gives users single-click functionality to turn off new message notifications from Outlook. The idea is to let users focus on their work without continuous interruptions from incoming e-mail.
“Switching context, when you go from one application back and forth to Outlook to check for messages, is a huge time sink, it’s a staggering problem for knowledge workers,” Deva Hazarika, CEO of ClearContext, told InternetNews.com.
All the standard features of the earlier versions remain so you can, for example, color code and prioritize incoming e-mail. With one click you can also mute or defer a thread that isn’t a high priority to a later date tied to a pop-up alert.
“I think it’s a very good way for knowledge workers to focus on their work and not do e-mail for the sake of e-mail,” said Jonathan Spira, chief analyst and founder of Basex, a research firm focused on collaborative business tools. “We have this huge glut of stuff that arrives in our inbox and if we don’t manage that, it’s easy to miss the truly critical e-mails from say an important prospect or customer.”
When ClearContext brought out its first version a few years ago, Hazarika said it appealed to “hyper-organized” users who were determined to bring e-mail sprawl under control.
“Now we’re selling more directly to IT and other corporate departments who are getting swamped in Outlook and want to get it under control.” He said increasing regulatory compliance issues, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, have helped his company’s get new business; it currently has over 25,000 users.
The program cost $89.95 per single user license and a free 30-day trial version is available is available for download at the company’s Web site.
The company also released what it calls a three-step best practices methodology for Outlook users. ClearContext is designed to help automate the three steps, but the suggestions can be implemented regardless of whether you have the program, albeit more manually, and would apply to other users of other e-mail programs as well.
- Identify (start of day) – Review the day’s appointments, tasks, and actions to evaluate priorities for the day. Review any outstanding alerts for important messages requiring immediate attention. Identify the highest priority e-mails to get started on.
- Manage (twice daily) – Process the inbox by either responding to messages, filing them, creating tasks or appointments from e-mails where required or deferring the messages to deal with later.
- Succeed (throughout the day) – Turn off e-mail alerts and focus on getting specific projects done. Be sure to have all the information on hand needed to focus on a project without switching between windows or searching for information.