I came across a great question asking about using email to manage issues or tasks.
The short answer is that email is terrible for managing issues and tasks.
Sending or forwarding emails may make the sender feel like the issue is being handled (particularly if its a long email, with many threads and lots of names on the cc line). But in truth, sending or forwarding emails is just a fast and easy way for the sender to get the issue off their plate without investing themselves in the resolution of the issue or accomplishment of the task.
Not Enough Information
1. A forwarded email often does not have enough information or context to convey how the issue should be handled. Even though there may be a ton of discussion in the email itself the sender is assuming
- a) that the recipient will understand the discussion in the way that they do and
- b) that the recipient will understand the senders intent and come to the same conclusion as to how the issue should be resolved.
It is also extremely time consuming for the recipient to troll through the entire email, rather than get clear direction from the sender.
Who is Responsible?
2. Forwarding email has no clear way for the sender to see who is supposed to be handling the issue or task. They just know who they forwarded it to. The next person in line (or all the people cc’d on it) may turn around and forward it to other people.
No Feedback. Just More Email.
3. There is no clear feedback loop on the status of the issue or task with email. While the email might contain a deadline or language conveying urgency, the sender has no clear way of seeing how close to being done the issue is nor does the recipient have any way of updating the timeline on the issue -other than sending more email that then needs to be sifted through to get to the status information.
4. It is cumbersome and difficult for the sender to see the status of all issues or tasks at any point in time. They need to search their inbox/outbox issue by issue or person by person.
Incidentally, the same things that are wrong with using email can apply to open-ended project collaboration software or task management systems that work like message boards with multiple posts. Like email, these are easy for people to use. But, they provide limited information for project managers. A manager often needs to spend a lot of time sifting through posts to find information they need to make strategic decisions or to update clients.