Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan gets fresh ‘Outlook’

The Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan (OTIP) has turned to a Microsoft partner to establish e-mail best practices and to boost return on investment on its messaging infrastructure. 

The organization has implemented Charon Systems’ Train-the-Trainer (T3) Program, which provides an employee with the full accreditation necessary to facilitate the business productivity workshops.

According to Donald Chaumont, vice-president of information systems at OTIP in Waterloo, Ont., the solution was brought onboard soon after the organization realized that the huge amount of e-mail entering its inboxes was taking up too much of the workers’ time. And OTIP was also hoping to better utilize its existing Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange environment.

“We found that staff were, some of them, getting in the area of 75 to 100 e-mails a day on average,” said Chaumont, adding that spam accounted for 40 per cent of all e-mails. “We had spent money on spam filters and everything else and it was just pure volume that was happening. Especially if people went away and came back, they were finding that they kept searching through e-mails and they couldn’t get organized.”

The Charon Systems Business Productivity Group proposed a process that it said would on average save as much as one-to-two hours a day per employee, translating into a 12-to-25 per cent increase in productivity and a better use of the messaging infrastructure.

This initial training for the trainer and for the first 50 users lasted a month, said Chaumont, and soon thereafter more employees were trained, for a total of about 200 workers. Employees were taught how to utilize the features already built into applications such as Outlook and Exchange in ways that would help them stay on top of tasks, prioritize duties and avoid non-essential e-mails.

OTIP has dealt with a problem many companies are still struggling with, said Vivienne So, director of the Business Productivity Group at Charon Systems in Toronto. Her company’s goal, she said, is to change the behaviour of users, to essentially help organizations and individuals identify the most effective ways to accomplish certain initiatives. For instance, e-mail users can simplify their lives by opting for colour-coded messages.          

“The process for me is, I want to identify an e-mail that’s sent only to me, because if it’s sent only to me and I don’t’ touch it I could potentially let it drop (between) the cracks,” she said, explaining one of the reasons users may want to colour-code their e-mails. “Obviously, if it’s sent only to me I can check the sender name and I can check the subject and I’ll probably get a sense about what that’s about. Then I can choose whether I can leave that or open it up now.

“So what we do is write a rule that states that if an e-mail is sent only to me, it turns blue…When I look in my inbox, I identify an e-mail sent only to me, (and) I can determine whether or not I want to see it. And so what happens is my behaviour changes.”

Six months after the program was completed at OTIP, Charon Systems, a Bell Canada company, conducted a survey to gauge the effectiveness of the training. The results showed that 77 per cent of attendees experienced an instant productivity boost, 82 per cent were immediately able to better manage time and set priorities, 74 per cent were more proactive, 83 per cent were following up more effectively and letting fewer tasks fall through the cracks, 68 per cent were better able to concentrate on revenue-generating goals, 60 per cent were able to reduce stress levels simply by using the time-saving strategies and 83 per cent were feeling more in control.

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