BT Blog: The demise of email?

This blog post nicely summarises the hype about social networking, and nicely summarises the increasing resentment towards email. Nicola contends that collaboration tools – presumably BT collaboration tools – signify the end of email except as a formal medium. But I think it misses the point.

I am a huge advocate of social networking tools, especially for business. But please, don’t make the mistake of thinking that email is something different. email as we use it today is a kind of “phase 1″ of social networking. To paraphrase Nicola’s words and change from a negative to a positive, collaboration by email allows a conversation to flow between a group, encompassing more or less people as required, in real-time or non-real-time (ie: no need for a meeting room or audio conference), sharing information and enabling people to make decisions. Plus it all leaves an audit trail.

email is great.

Just because email is massively abused, does not make the email system bad. But things have moved on, and email – meaning the sending of information from one individual to another – needs to move on and join in the communications party. We should not see it as a technology island. And there’s no reason why it needs to be.

What social networking tools do introduce is a good point in time for organisations to reconsider their corporate communications. Should company announcements go out over email, or should they go via RSS and a website? Where should documents get stored – or should everything be documented in wikis? How can we track activities across the team – via a weekly report? Via email or the web? Or in an automated way? In other words, what are the complete communications needs of the organisation, how does information need to flow within and into/out of the organisation? Once that is understood, then it’s time to look at the toolkit.

And here I agree with Nicola’s blog post. There are good reasons for ditching email as we know it in favour of email as we’d rather it was. If that means we have to give it another name, then fine let’s do that, but it’s still the sending of a message from one person to another person or group of people. Just as talking one on one with someone privately – in person or on the phone – is valuable, and just as talking privately with a group – in person or on the phone – is valuable, so doing the same in a textual environment which may be real-time or non-real-time is valuable.

But we’re not extracting full value from this creation and delivery of information.

Actually, the major revolution around the corner is not the tools we’re using – an email client vs an IM client vs a social networking toolkit – but the way information is stored and retrieved. By storing information centrally, relating bits of information to other bits of information, and allowing people to access this information in a variety of ways we can make information flow smoother and smarter. We can make the information find people, and allow people to find the information.

The challenge is to invent ways to classify information according to content, secure bits according to who is eligible to see them, and relate bits of information to other bits of information in a meaningful way. Oh and incidently, this all needs to transcend corporate boundaries. All without making the human part of the system have to put in additional effort.

You may have noticed that Google are already doing some of this.

Tie this into a communications toolkit which includes email, social networking, collaboration or whatever you wish to call it and the result is very powerful indeed.



About mikbarne
I'm a writer and freelance communications and collaboration consultant with nearly 20 years experience in UK telecommunications, specialising in VoIP, Unified Communications and Collaboration, and building effective communications architectures. Visit my Google+ Profile

One Response to BT Blog: The demise of email?

  1. Pingback: Bye Bye Cisco Mail « Mike Barnes' Blog

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