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There is lots of talk about email going away: some are swearing completely off of email, others complain about how many messages they receive in their inbox, others use only email. Our own research shows that for many corporate workers, the importance of email continues to grow. Add to all of this the continuing discussions about migrating from GroupWise to “Outlook” (the subject of an upcoming blog post), how Notes/Domino is losing share to Exchange, etc.
However, does it really matter? The fundamental goal of email when it was invented decades ago was to enable people to communicate in a more efficient way. That goal has never changed, but the tools that are available to corporate decision makers to enable that efficiency have. For example, we now have social tools that can enable communication in a way that enables easier access to and analysis of employee and customer sentiment. We have collaboration tools that make it easier for groups to work on a document instead of sending a file to everyone via email. We have text messaging and instant messaging that enable bursty types of communication that are more efficient than email.
Spending time at Lotusphere last week reinforced my view that IBM, more than many other vendors, really understands the new paradigm. To them it’s not so much about Notes/Domino losing share to Exchange (which, on a worldwide basis, is questionable anyway given that there are more Domino servers under management than at any time in the company’s history) or cloud vs. on-premise or social media vs. email. Instead, it’s about how communications is evolving into a new platform that integrates social into the business fabric – integrating new paradigms with the old where it makes sense to do so. It’s about a shift in corporate culture that doesn’t focus on siloes of information, but instead uses a variety of communication modes in a way that makes the most sense. For example, email need not – and should not – succumb to social media, but instead evolve into a tool that enables integration of various communication types that makes sense given a particular organization’s culture, regulatory environment, today’s customer base, future customer base, the geographic distribution of its employees and other factors.
The bottom line is that email – and every other mode of electronic communication – is about how to let employees and customers communicate, collaborate, learn, change and act in a way that meets their needs and those of their employer. Those who get caught up in the email vs. social media vs. Web 2.0 vs. cloud vs. on-premise vs. whatever else discussion are often missing the bigger picture: this is much more about business and getting things done efficiently, and not so much about technology.
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