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My key KPI: Inbox zero

3rd Jan 2018
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My key KPI
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Welcome to ‘My key KPI’, a new weekly content series where we ask CFOs and FDs what metrics and measures they use to drive their businesses forward.

The aim is to understand how different finance professionals, across a broad array of industries and sectors, use data to inform their decision making.

In the first edition of this year, AccountingWEB caught up with Ciaran O’Donnell, a veteran from the telecoms industry now working as a virtual FD for numerous startups and early-stage businesses.

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My key KPI: Inbox zero

It’s popular, these days, to criticise the email. It harms productivity, it’s riddled with annoying conventions and empty politesse. Silicon Valley is dead set on ‘killing’ it.

And yet, for now at least, we can’t escape the medium’s pull. In offices around the world, the first thing many of us do each morning, and before we leave at night, is skim our inboxes.

Some, like Ciaran O’Donnell, take an even more proactive approach to reach inbox zero, a rigorous email management strategy aimed at keeping the inbox empty – or almost empty – at all times.

“When I’m at my desk, Outlook is always open, and I keep an eye on it,” O’Donnell explained. “But I’m careful not to be distracted if I am working on something else.”

When he’s been away from his desk, O’Donnell triages the messages he received while he was busy. “I’ll catch up and go through inbox as a batch, file what needs to be filed and leave emails which will require an action on my part. Same applies to coming back after a holiday.”

There are of course the vital financial metrics, but to O’Donnell, managing his inbox is a key facet of “a clutter-free and organised workspace” in which he thrives. “I know when the ball is in my court or not. So it keeps me on my toes.”

Inbox zero is a bit of misnomer, though. O’Donnell’s email isn’t always at zero, but he’ll always try to maintain it below ten. “It helps to avoid issues ageing (7 days, 30 days, etc.) and drives next actions or quick discussion when email is not appropriate.

“How I manage my inbox and communications with clients assists how I own and resolve issues – efficiencies reduce time/effort/distraction for all. It also increases my own bandwidth and capacity – extending the range of issues I cover with a client and also the number of clients I support at any one time.”

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