The end of email?

An interesting article in the British business publication Financial Times about how many companies–including high-tech companies–are trying to do away with e-mail:

“We believe email is fundamentally unproductive, you need to sift through too many documents and things get lost,” says Leerom Segal, president and chief executive of Klick, a Canadian digital marketing company. “It has no prioritisation, no workflow, and assumes that the most important item is the one at the top. My business partner became so frustrated with how dumb email was, that 14 years ago he began to build better tools for us to manage workflow.”

Klick, which has over 200 staff, now uses email only to communicate with external clients, while internally all messages go through Genome, its self-designed system which enables users to monitor tasks in a workflow. The programme works so well that Klick is now receiving inquiries from clients interested in installing the system in their own offices. The company has 10 employees working full-time on developing the network.

“When we started this, we never thought it could completely replace email,” says Mr Segal. We thought it would be used for specific tasks requiring a response. But before you know it, it was being used for every task.”

Other companies have opted for social networking tools such as Yammer to replace some of the function of email. For example, Capgemini, the IT services company, says it has reduced its internal email traffic by 40 per cent in the 18 months since staff began using Yammer. About 20 per cent of companies are estimated to have experimented with using social networks to connect employees.

The appeal of social networking over email is that it puts people in control of the information they see. Rather than material flooding unasked into the inbox, employees can subscribe to just the social networking groups and topics they are interested in, and read the information at a time of their choosing.

Other companies, while not necessarily looking to replace email, are looking for ways to lessen its use. Intel, for example, has experimented with “no-email Fridays” encouraging engineers to solve problems by phone or face to face instead.

Indeed, email has become a symbol of stress for employees, according to a a paper published earlier this year in Organisation Science, an academic journal of management.

“Most companies are grappling with email overload,” says Monica Seely, an email management expert at Mesmo, a consultancy, and author of Brilliant Email. “Companies are losing up to 20 days per person per year, dealing with email poorly.”

Mr Breton estimates that managers at Atos spend between five and 25 hours a week dealing with email.

Ms Seely says most people receive over 100 emails per day, and feel pressure to answer these quickly. Studies have shown that a quarter of people expect answers to their emails within an hour, with a third expecting a response within two hours. It is impossible to meet these demands.

“We live in an instant gratification society where we expect a response immediately. People at the receiving end feel like they need to constantly check email,” she says.

Andy Mulholland, chief technology officer at Capgemini, says email works poorly for people working in unstructured roles, such as engineers solving IT problems. “Someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, so you send out emails to everyone you know. Out of 20 people, 19 have their time wasted and the 20th gives you half an answer,” he explains. Social networking, in this case, can give faster and better answers.

via The end of email? – FT.com.

The internal/external communication distinction might be a useful one.  But can’t social networking be just as much of a time waster?  The beauty if e-mail would seem to be that it can be targetted to one and only one individual.  Perhaps getting rid of e-mail advertisements and mass mailings would help.  What do you think about this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “Perhaps getting rid of e-mail advertisements and mass mailings would help. What do you think about this?”

    Sounds good to me. A lot of time is wasted just clicking on e-mail messages to delete.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “Perhaps getting rid of e-mail advertisements and mass mailings would help. What do you think about this?”

    Sounds good to me. A lot of time is wasted just clicking on e-mail messages to delete.

  • Luckiest Day!

    Hello and good wishes to you Dr. Veith. My name is William Mobombo, and I am an attorney. I am writing to inform you that you will soon receive fifty thousand dollars from an unclaimed, million dollars bank account in Nigeria. All you need to do is …

  • Luckiest Day!

    Hello and good wishes to you Dr. Veith. My name is William Mobombo, and I am an attorney. I am writing to inform you that you will soon receive fifty thousand dollars from an unclaimed, million dollars bank account in Nigeria. All you need to do is …

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Well, I can tell you that where I work, a lot of the email flooding my inbox is from various internal organizations and is of no interest or relevance to me.

    Fortunately, I know how to filter my email into different folders. This does help …

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Well, I can tell you that where I work, a lot of the email flooding my inbox is from various internal organizations and is of no interest or relevance to me.

    Fortunately, I know how to filter my email into different folders. This does help …

  • l shaffer

    In the business environment, eventually the SharePoint / Workflow model will replace a lot of what currently transpires in e-mail. Right now, it’s in its infancy and is cumbersome and difficult to use and labor-intensive and expensive to develop. However, as new, cheaper, and easier tools and versions emerge, we’ll evolve into it just like we evolved into using e-mail in the first place. And someday we’ll look back and wonder how we ever lived without it.

  • l shaffer

    In the business environment, eventually the SharePoint / Workflow model will replace a lot of what currently transpires in e-mail. Right now, it’s in its infancy and is cumbersome and difficult to use and labor-intensive and expensive to develop. However, as new, cheaper, and easier tools and versions emerge, we’ll evolve into it just like we evolved into using e-mail in the first place. And someday we’ll look back and wonder how we ever lived without it.

  • kenneth

    Get some laws against spamming and we would be right back where it all started, networking.

    Merry Christmas+++

  • kenneth

    Get some laws against spamming and we would be right back where it all started, networking.

    Merry Christmas+++

  • Joe

    No Kenneth we don’t need a law. Gov’t regulation to make something more efficient, really?

  • Joe

    No Kenneth we don’t need a law. Gov’t regulation to make something more efficient, really?

  • railfan

    Like Mike, I use corporate mail tools (like filters and rules) to make order out of chaos.

    Companies in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia are more likely to have the kind of corporate discipline and culture that lets them reduce most internal communication to workflow-supported processes. In US-based companies like mine, we do some of that, but many of the interactions are very fluid and don’t fit a repeatable pattern.

  • railfan

    Like Mike, I use corporate mail tools (like filters and rules) to make order out of chaos.

    Companies in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia are more likely to have the kind of corporate discipline and culture that lets them reduce most internal communication to workflow-supported processes. In US-based companies like mine, we do some of that, but many of the interactions are very fluid and don’t fit a repeatable pattern.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kenneth (@5) said:

    Get some laws against spamming…

    Um, there are laws against spamming.

    Specifically, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Its name is one of those ridiculous acronyms that legislators seem to really enjoy hacking together. But I really like this one, because its name is appropriately ambiguous: does it mean “can” as in “fire, remove”, or “can” as in “are able to”? Ostensibly, the law was intended with the first meaning in mind, but as it’s worked out, the latter may be more appropriate.

    Yeah, that law has done nothing to actually stop spamming. And I doubt any single nation’s law could do anything. Because, you know, email costs the same whether you’re sending it internationally or domestically.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kenneth (@5) said:

    Get some laws against spamming…

    Um, there are laws against spamming.

    Specifically, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Its name is one of those ridiculous acronyms that legislators seem to really enjoy hacking together. But I really like this one, because its name is appropriately ambiguous: does it mean “can” as in “fire, remove”, or “can” as in “are able to”? Ostensibly, the law was intended with the first meaning in mind, but as it’s worked out, the latter may be more appropriate.

    Yeah, that law has done nothing to actually stop spamming. And I doubt any single nation’s law could do anything. Because, you know, email costs the same whether you’re sending it internationally or domestically.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, I guess I really don’t see the issues with email that others see. But it’s clear from the article that other people think differently about it than I do.

    For one thing, I only check my email a few times a day. I have a visual notification pop up that I scan to see if any incoming email is truly urgent, but most of them aren’t, so I wait until one of my “few times a day” to read over my inbox.

    And yeah, most emails to me do not get returned in an hour or two. But then, I work in an office of 30 people. If it’s urgent, it’s not that hard to find me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, I guess I really don’t see the issues with email that others see. But it’s clear from the article that other people think differently about it than I do.

    For one thing, I only check my email a few times a day. I have a visual notification pop up that I scan to see if any incoming email is truly urgent, but most of them aren’t, so I wait until one of my “few times a day” to read over my inbox.

    And yeah, most emails to me do not get returned in an hour or two. But then, I work in an office of 30 people. If it’s urgent, it’s not that hard to find me.

  • steve

    If the problem with email is that its managed poorly, how anyone keep virtually any tool from being used poorly? Probably everyone here can give half a dozen examples of social networking being used poorly right off the tops of their heads. There are business tools that people think are so ubiquitous that everyone naturally knows how to use them: email, meetings, instant messaging, etc. But why do we assume the same guy who needs to be told how to use the copy machine knows how to use email? A lot of the email burden can be mitigated by a small amount of training.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is that people don’t use cc wisely, nor do they reply to cc’d emails wisely. So much of what floods people’s inboxes doesn’t actually apply to them but, rather, is caused by someone else covering their backside by copying everyone whose name they can remember.

  • steve

    If the problem with email is that its managed poorly, how anyone keep virtually any tool from being used poorly? Probably everyone here can give half a dozen examples of social networking being used poorly right off the tops of their heads. There are business tools that people think are so ubiquitous that everyone naturally knows how to use them: email, meetings, instant messaging, etc. But why do we assume the same guy who needs to be told how to use the copy machine knows how to use email? A lot of the email burden can be mitigated by a small amount of training.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is that people don’t use cc wisely, nor do they reply to cc’d emails wisely. So much of what floods people’s inboxes doesn’t actually apply to them but, rather, is caused by someone else covering their backside by copying everyone whose name they can remember.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X