July 21, 2007

OOF'ing? Why Bother?

In the Blackberry Age is the OOF (Out of Office) Message obsolete? I would like to think so.

For those of you who don't know of the Out of Office message, it's the option in most email services, where you can have an auto-reply sent in response to all inbound email you receive. In theory this is to be used when you're on vacation, or generally unable to reply to email in a timely fashion. Its rare that an individual uses an OOF for personal email. Its domain is principally for business email communications. In practice the OOF is overused.

Thanks to our friends at Research in Motion (RIM) the maker of the Blackberry, we have become accessible 7 days per week, 24 hours per day anywhere on the planet. You would think that if you carry a Blackberry wherever you go that important messages would register with you. You would think that the OOF message could be turned off for good. Not really!

Marketers and organizations that send mass email to business subscribers/customers say that OOF messages represent a high percentage of response they receive to their email blasts. These organizations also say that the volume of OOF responses is increasing year over year.

At the same time there's an almost equal increase in the adoption of email enabled handheld devices. I would bet that the vast majority of such device users still employ the OOF. Perhaps they think it gives them time off...or they get a Blackberry to look cool. If I send an email to someone I know has a handheld device and get an OOF, I've effectively just outed them. They're using OOF as a cloaking device.

The core benefit delivered by the Blackberry is the ability to go anywhere and still deal with whatever, whenever. If used responsibly it can empower productivity...not reduce it!

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