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December 28, 2015

Email – the next killer feature in collaboration?

Email. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it. And you damn sure can’t kill it.

Email is basically the internet equivalent of toilet paper. It’s the subject we don’t really talk about that much, but we all use it. We have to.

The problem, I guess, is its inherent asynchronicity. As soon as email is used in anything more than one to one communication, you also choose to get out of sync. Whether it’s what you discuss, or that file you felt you had to send to the group, your ability to stay in sync got messed up the moment you involved the third person.

But we can’t live without it. It’s like your SMS for work (at least if you’re still doing Inbox work). It’s just there, and you just use it. Because that’s the technology everyone has available to them. Because it’s easy. Everyone knows how to create an email, add recipients and click a send button.

So it’s almost like a corporate commodity.

Still. It’s not good for the workplace, and it’s not that great for you. A lot of time (some numbers say around 28% of the workday) is wasted in the inbox, which translates to a lot of wasted hours, which translates to a lot of money. If you have 100 employees, they work 8 hours a day, and they spend just 25% of their workday in the inbox, that’s 200 man hours spent in the inbox. Per day. And I’m willing to bet that not much of those 2 hours is used in a focused and action oriented way. I’m willing to bet that for every email sent to a group of people, for each person in that group, you’re likely to waste a lot of time.

Now, if this was just about money, you’d probably be thinking “Oh hell no, I’d never throw hundred dollar bills around like that !”. But because it’s “just” time, and more often than not someone elses time, this is accepted practice. And perhaps noone in your organization wants to attack the problem, because “that’d also be a huge waste of time”. Or, they don’t know how, or what alternatives are available to them.

And so I take it upon me to tell you that… well, you’re screwed.

Most collaboration platforms today, focus on being the email alternative. They provide a variety of features which aims to outcompete email. “Use our platform, and forget about email”.

Even if you do succeed in eliminating email, there is an overwhelming chance of that only happening internally in your organization.

The reason is very simple: The world is bigger than you. And your choice is likely not the choice of the organization next to you.

So you’re forced to maintain and rely on some kind of email service, and you won’t ever really integrate email with the platform you otherwise do your work in.

And that’s where I see email being the next killer feature: Integrating mailservers into collaboration platforms.

Take any collaboration platform you can think of. I’ll take Podio, as I know that platform.

In Podio you can message other Podio users. You can also assign an email to an app, and email directly into the app. Which is great.

The results are threefold though:

  1. As soon as you communicate with someone outside your organization, you’re forced back into email.
  2. Your address book is populated by contacts with confusing email addresses.
    1. Subsequently, you simply forget the email addresses you’re supposed to send stuff to, and so you just stop using that feature all together.
  3. Best case, you end up spending time forwarding emails into your Podio apps, then having to work on them in Podio afterwards.

Understand, I’m using Podio as an example, but the truth is they’ve already done more than a lot of other platforms where you don’t have this possibility at all.

But what if you didn’t have to separate the inside from the outside ?

What if emails were received directly in an inbox in your collaboration platform ? Think of the possibilities by having all of the communication in one platform, both internal and external communication.

  • Creating action from relevant emails. Like creating a task, or delegating a task.
  • Raising an emails level from “just me” to “those relevant to the email”, making it a discussable item – never out of sync.
  • Submitting knowledge (or rather, information) contained in an email, as e.g. a wiki article.
  • Group inboxes focused on teams communicating with customers.

And those emails which require no action, and contain no relevant information ?

Mark all. Delete.

  • Think of the hours saved by knowledge workers across the planet.
  • Think of the stress relieved.
  • Think of the money saved.
  • Think of the decrease in confusing communication.

It makes no sense to keep communicating on two platforms.

It makes no sense to try to outcompete a technology you can’t outcompete.

Include it. Own it. Make it work for you.

Well, as soon as the collaboration platform providers get around to it anyway.


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