E-mail Distribution Lists
Despite its abuse and shortcomings, e-mail remains a vital communication
tool for the enterprise. Designed correctly, it allows messages
to be sent to precisely targeted segments of the workforce. Having
invested the time and effort in distribution group design, we also
wanted to help staff visualize and understand the structure and
easily use it for messaging.
picture is worth 1,000 words
Kevin, one of our physician informaticists,
saw the importance of having a highly structured approach to e-mail
distribution groups and voluntarily assumed ownership of the process.
He also recognized that it was not enough to just impose order on
the process; it was equally important to clearly communicate the
design logic to everyone. Understanding the logic would help people:
effectively use the distribution lists; and,
more amenable to the centrally-imposed structure instead of insisting
on their own design.
created and maintains a graphical representation of each major branch
of the e-mail distribution group tree (click the image below to
see a full-size image). Shown below is one of the "communication
maps," for the emergency medicine department. As can be seen,
the groups are designed to segment workers by:
work location (hospital); and,
of worker (e.g., MDs, RNs, etc.)
the partial image above to see the full-size image]
created a tool for the intranet that
leveraged Kevin's work and made it as easy as possible to understand
and use the e-mail distribution groups not only for e-mail,
but also for paging.
automated process extracts a list of all distribution groups from
the Exchange e-mail server into a database, and then compiles a
hierarchy of groups. Each service line or department has its own
hierarchy and communication map (see example above). Each subgroup
is named using a numbering scheme:
a top-level group, such as EMD1 (shown above), displays the next
level of groups (shown below).
there are no individuals in these groups. Only the lowest-level
groups actually contain any names; the higher-level groups are only
containers for lower-level groups.
one of the second-level groups displays the next level (shown below).
one of the third-level groups displays the next level (shown below).
one of the fourth-level groups displays the next level (shown below),
which in this case happens to be the final level, containing a list
of people. Once the final level has been reached, links are offered
to either send an e-mail address to the group or any member of the
group, or to send a page to all members of the group who have a
corporate pager. (Note: an e-mail may be sent to any of the
higher-level groups by selecting that group in Outlook.)
sending a page, the screen shown below is displayed, listing all
members of the group who have pagers, and the standard intranet
paging tool. Up to 110 alphanumeric characters may be sent, either
using a preselected message or any other message.
other tools are offered, based on the distribution group data. The
first is a list of all distribution group
owners and the groups that they own.
second tool is a list of all the groups (if any) to which the current
user belongs (my list is shown below), and a quick way to
look up the groups to which any other individual belongs.
intranet tool helps staff understand the e-mail distribution group
hierarchy and the logic behind the design.
ability to directly page everyone in a group (a recent addition)
may prove valuable in the event of an emergency.
multiple ways to leverage existing resources offers a sort of
exponential return on the original investment: not only does the
organization obtain a greater return on the investment, but new
uses for the original resource increase its perceived value and
the frequency of all related uses. The whole (total return from
all uses) really is greater than the sum of the parts (return
from each use in isolation).
Posted 29 June 2008