The Problem With Email
McKinsey's research indicates that interaction workers typically spend 28% of each day (13 hours a week) reading, writing and filing e-mails. (McKinsey Quarterly, Nov 12)
Email became a powerful tool for individual and small group communication because of its Inbox which has served as a user's task list and its folders as a filing system. The Inbox has been one single place to keep abreast of daily business activities.
A huge amount of valuable company knowledge is locked up in emails, sequestered as silo-ed "dark-matter" and inaccessible to other employees. When someone leaves the company, this information can become frozen and disappear from its knowledge bank.
As the ground changes in businesses communication, email's current form as a stand-alone application appears inadequate, inefficient and destined to change.
The Proven Efficiency of Communicating Via Enterprise Social Networking
McKinsey estimates that 25 to 30 percent of total email time could be saved if the principle channel for communication was relocated to a social platform. There, employees could locate required knowledge faster and reduce unwanted responses.
File attachments can also be better managed and recovered. They will be more visible and more accessible; no longer buried in individual accounts. Common topics will be more readily found and their authors quickly identified.
With a social business network, important questions and answers can be easily published and accessed by all employees. For example, interactive knowledgebase applications provide centralized and organised access to frequently requested information thereby reducing the need for individuals to email redundant questions.
Email's Inability to Handle Meaningful Collaboration
Another compelling argument for a re-assessment of email is that it is inefficient when employees start communicating together on a common subject. It cannot handle collaboration, one of the most essential, if not critical activities for an efficient production base.
According to Salesforce's Rypple, (its new social performance management platform), 96% of CEOs now cite poor collaboration and communication responsible for work place failures.
A study by Subramanium and Youndt (published in the Academy of Management Journal) indicates that companies with better collaborative management achieve superior financial performance. Moreover, academic research shows that innovation is more quickly generated from collaborative networks rather than individual talent.
McKinsey's analysis of four industry sectors that represent almost 20 percent of global industry sales suggests that social platforms can unlock $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value in those sectors alone. Two-thirds of this value creation opportunity lies in improving communication and collaboration within and across enterprises.
Collaboration in business is also increasing. This has happened for a number of reasons:
- The work place is becoming more global, more virtual and more dispersed. Here, information can easily be silo-ed, slowing information exchange and making decision-making more cumbersome. However, our need for fast knowledge and quick solutions is increasing.
Email just doesn't work for these geographically and operationally isolated situations.
- As we outsource further, the information supply chain is becoming more complex. The more variables in a process the more chance of it going off the rails. The only prevention is managed, transparent and accountable communication across the entire supply chain.
- The traditional office is continuing to morph into a shared space as young workers from the Facebook generation acquire their own voice and readily exchange information.
Employees Without Email Will Want To Be Connected
The value of open and efficient communication channels within a business is undeniable.
Yet in Mumba Cloud, my enterprise social networking business, I have found that more than 60% of our client's workforces do not have a company email account and therefore cannot communicate with all employees.
This is often the case in industries with large blue-collar work forces, such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, mining, building, maintenance, and transport. Many of these companies have never realised the benefits of keeping all their employees informed and providing them with a means of communication within the company.
When business social networking and cloud based messaging via mobile phones inevitably becomes the everyday standard of communication, these previously ignored employees would have helped to shift communications away from email to their online social platform that is accessible by all.
When you consider the benefits of communication efficiencies and improvements to collaboration, combined with an entirely engaged workforce it becomes clear that enterprise social networks would be sought to drive these positive changes.
Furthermore, employees gravitate to whatever they find easier to work with. As the Facebook generation flows into our organizations, the balance will tip towards online collaborative tools and so outdated applications such as email will start to decline and phase out of business usage.
Many believe that it will happen sooner rather than later. The technology research company, Gartner, stated at its annual symposium; "Social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of businesses by 2014".
I think that this prediction is a little optimistic; however I do believe that by the end of this decade email will be a faint notion of our working-life past.
* Image Credited to Getty Images.