Blog Posts Case Management Process Management Process Modeling

Effective Email Notifications

Blog: Collaborative Planning & Social Business

Every collaborative system needs some way to notify people of things that need attention. Email is by far the most ubiquitous option for reaching out to people.  Done well, email is an effective way to draw people in to work they need to do.  Done poorly, and the email is an annoying waste.   What is needed to do it well?

You’ve Got Mail

All BPM and Case Management systems assign tasks to people and track their completion.  But someone can not do a task, if they don’t know about the task.  Notification needs to be timely and useful.  SMS (texts) and other instant messaging apps are an option, but not everyone has access to all messaging option.  Email, however, is nearly universal.

All too often the programmer designs an email notification as if the receiver was sitting all day doing nothing but using that one system.  The email contains a vague, incomplete message that seems good enough to the programmer if all you do is sit and think about that one system.   Reality is different.  Our lives are tumultuous juxtapositions of many tasks, topics, and concerns.  All of this is squeezed into a single email inbox.  The average worker gets more than 100 emails/day, but some positions can easily receive more than 1000 per day.  It is important to busy people, that an email notification actually helps you get things done.


This post is motivated by a couple such email messages i received this week.  I will include them at the bottom, but first, let me give you a list of things to check for when you design an email notification, to make sure they are useful.

When designing an email notification, run through this list and check that you have considered each option.


This post was triggered by a couple of such notifications that were poorly designed.   These are real examples that I received, with just a few of the values redacted for privacy reasons.

No link!   I make use of 6 or 7 learning sites, and I am not sure which one this is?  Note the “donotreply” email address.  The information is compressed into a single incoherent unparseable line.  I guess the programmer just thought I would know automatically what these values mean.    I suppose that the 3/20/2020 is the due date, but that is far from clear.  When I see this message, I have a vague fear that there is something I need to do, but I am going to have to do a lot of research to find out where my “Learning Plan” is located, and how to do anything about this.

Why didn’t the programmer sit down and think about what the user receiving this will need?  Like, access to the learning system?  I get this message approximately once per year, and it is just unreasonable to expect me to automatically know what this message means when it arrives in the middle of 300,000 others.

Data is broken out and labeled much better.

Still no link!  No mention of exactly which system this came from or what it is responsible for.  I work with a number of systems that represent goals.   Which of those systems is this one?  My only clue is that this one says “oraclecloud” in the email address, but even so that is not clear enough.

The message includes my boss’s name (redacted) and that gives me more confidence that the message is real.

Are there other goals?  How do I access these goals?  Do I need to mark them as accepted?  What is it that this notification is asking me to do.  Once again, this notification creates additional work for me in order to follow up.


Good well designed email notification messages can make a difference in how useful a system is.   When selecting a system look for that.  Unfortunately, good notifications are rarely in the acceptance criteria of any system requirements.  Is it any wonder that notification messages are merely an afterthought of the design, hastily thrown together by programmers who fail to understand how everyday people have lives outside that particular application.   Don’t be that programmer.

Leave a Comment

Get the BPI Web Feed

Using the HTML code below, you can display this Business Process Incubator page content with the current filter and sorting inside your web site for FREE.

Copy/Paste this code in your website html code:

<iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="auto" width="100%" height="700">

Customizing your BPI Web Feed

You can click on the Get the BPI Web Feed link on any of our page to create the best possible feed for your site. Here are a few tips to customize your BPI Web Feed.

Customizing the Content Filter
On any page, you can add filter criteria using the MORE FILTERS interface:

Customizing the Content Filter

Customizing the Content Sorting
Clicking on the sorting options will also change the way your BPI Web Feed will be ordered on your site:

Get the BPI Web Feed

Some integration examples