Is Email on its way out?

Recently I read some predictions that the email is an idea of the past and eventually is going to vanish. Although I do not agree with this statement in its entirety, there is some merit in this way of thinking. Email might soon share the same fate as the phone (not to mention epistolography – does anybody still remembers the art of writing letters?). On a forefront of this new development is Atos – I think the first organization that officially banned the use of emails replacing them with more collaborative tools. They must know what they are doing after all this organization is pretty large with 42 offices around the world and 74,000 of employees. As a matter of fact, couple of years ago I worked for a company with over 25 offices across the world and the instant messenger was our primary contact tool. With rapid eruption of social networking technologies, the near real-time collaboration and the cloud platforms, the importance of emails is going to diminish. As Atos CEO said, on average their employees were getting 200 emails per day, from that only 10% was useful, and middle managers were spending 25% of their time searching for information. From my personal experience, this sounds right.

On the other hand the social technologies bring new challenges from point of view of information management – like for example – how to treat them as records, how to deal with their retention, how to retain the knowledge. The bigger challenge however is personal productivity, if everyone is chatting with everyone; then they have no time to do any work. This type of collaboration cannot be replacement for ability to store, search, find and use the information. So information management is becoming now even more important, before the big wave hits destroying the efficiency instead of enabling it, the workers must know where to find the information, and have easy access to it, rather than trying to find it by chatting. This is the point where the email has advantage, with tools like Outlook – the search is quite simple and it is easy to associate the content with its business context. The governance has a key role to play here, on one of our recent programs we implemented a policy to block 50% of time to focus on the work that was planned, including collaborating ‘within’ the teams, and devoting the rest of the time to coordination with other teams, planning, meetings, answering emails, administrative work and so on.

Overall, no doubt – while our world is changing dramatically when it comes to communication and collaboration, our information management strategy and governance needs to adjust accordingly.

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