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2nd January 2013

Corporate Email is dying. Long live Chatter …

Email has become the norm – in both our personal and professional lives. Its adoption (and success) has in my view been primarily based on its intrinsic simplicity. Emails are simple to draft, and can be sent and received in nanoseconds.

But despite this, email practice has introduced some painful business challenges. Some studies have reported that corporate users typically receive 150-200 emails a day. Some 20% of these are spam, and a further significant percentage on matters of minor relevance to the reader. Businesses also suffer the growing cost and management of infrastructure to support these voluminous communications, and bear considerable downtime when users parse through their bulging inboxes, daily!

In recent times, social tools have emerged to facilitate corporate communication and collaboration – such as Chatter, Yammer and Jive – and there’s been much debate as to whether these newbies could eventually displace corporate email. Atos Origin, for instance, deems email as a “pollution of data” that is out of control, and are introducing social tools to displace it by 2014.

On the flipside, the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple are continuing to invest more in embedding better email capabilities into their platforms. There must be something behind that? After all, the advent of email did not completely kill off “snail mail”, and nor did Television kill off Radio. So why should anyone expect these new collaboration tools to displace email?

However, collaboration tools do have powerful and inherent social capabilities that extend far beyond email, and can deliver higher business value. But the key to their success lies in adoption, and getting that right requires a clear strategy and plan.

In fact, Adam Pisoni, the co-Founder of Yammer (now part of Microsoft) once proposed that “Adoption is the new ROI”.  But how do you achieve this?

Best practice to date has recommended a number of principles, which include:

  • Engage top-level sponsorship: Leaders must provide the workspace, tools, resources, motivation, policies and practices to drive adoption, aligned with corporate culture.
  • Walk before you Run: Focus on one or two areas of your business to pilot the application. The Big Bang approach rarely works. Pilot areas may be “process” related (e.g. customer service requests), organisation related (e.g. sales team), or perhaps even market related (e.g. top-tier clients only).
  • Embed the tool(s) into the process: Integration of social tools into the business processes and supporting applications is critical, as this inherently automates collaborative workflow.

So, will corporate eMail eventually die out? Time will of course tell. In my view, organisations should provide a balance of (integrated) tools and options, and engender a “culture” that empowers its workforce to select tools that “best fit” each business need.

There is also a fundamental need for better end-user training to help businesses drive adoption and derive better value from their investments in these tools. Doing so will help improve performance and productivity levels, lower operational costs, and deliver more enhanced customer experiences.

What are your views and experiences? Please share here.

PS: I’ve also posted a Poll on LinkedIn for you to vote on: <CLICK HERE TO VOTE>


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