Email is undeniably a business-critical tool. It enables communication both inside and beyond the company walls and has achieved levels of cross-vendor interoperability that other technologies can only dream of. But it is also critically flawed…
Let’s be clear, these are not necessarily flaws in the design of the technology, it’s just that we use email for things that it simply isn’t good at, and was never meant to do – such as document collaboration, group discussions and receiving notifications. According to Mimecast, which provides email management services, business people spend around half of their day using email and yet, in the end, only one in three emails is essential for work. The rest are mostly short questions, answers, comments or documents – things that could all be shared more effectively via a social stream, chat or shared documents.
Apparently, most of us prefer to use email rather than actually speak to a colleague, resulting in companies like Debenhams having to store 13.8 million new emails a month – a figure that (in 2012) was increasing 20% year-on-year for the retailer.
In the last 8 years or so, we’ve seen new technologies emerge that support our broader business collaboration needs much more effectively than email, through “social” techniques and concepts which help to open up our organisations, bring transparency and interactivity, and introduce new opportunities to rethink the way organisations operate; tools which encourage conversation, and capture the knowledge and processes of the business in an effortless way, to create a corporate mind.
For those organisations that have successfully integrated social technology into their work-flows, the research is encouraging:
- On average, companies using collaboration software see an increase in productivity of 12.5% (Forbes)
- 97% of companies using social collaboration software report being able to service clients more effectively (ICE3)
- 74% of companies report faster access to knowledge using social software (Participo)
But, remember, there’s no silver bullet here. Not every company starts with the culture of openness and collaboration needed to deliver the desired results. Social software tools such as enterprise social networks (ESN) and online communities cannot bring about the change alone, they require a commitment from the organisation to invest in the change management needed to make them a success.
Nevertheless, I believe we are approaching an era where email will stand to one side, will become just one tool in a whole collection of communication and collaboration tools that work together to support the varying different situations, roles and use cases that make up our working life. The change will come – is already coming. Denying it is just delaying the inevitable.
Join Angela on 15th October for more discussion and debate on this topic in our webinar: The Future of Business Communication: Moving Beyond Email.