Email is getting quite a bad reputation, in fact Atos Origin (a large consulting and outsourcing company) is pledging to be a zero email company within three years! Bertrand Duperrin wrote up a great post on this examining whether or not this realistic. This post however is not about whether or not we could or should live without email, or what we can replace email. Instead I think it’s worth exploring why email is being seen as one of the problems leading to enterprise collaboration instead of being seen as a possible solution to enterprise collaboration. This by the way, came after another great chat with Gil Yehuda.
Email as it stands is not the greatest collaboration tool, in fact email is becoming more and more like a messaging tool, you send out an email and a few minutes later you get one right back. It makes it hard to ever leave the email screen. Sharing files amongst groups is also not very efficient and overall collaboration functionality is just limited. As a result, vendors are developing new tools and collaboration suites that make effective collaboration possible…but is this the best approach? We all use email quite frequently on a daily basis so why isn’t it possible to build collaboration functionality directly into email solutions?
What if when sending and receiving emails we had the ability to access shared document spaces, activity streams, project groups, and other data that we needed right from the email interface (such as Yahoo, Gmail, or Outlook)? I understand the attractiveness of building out new tools and platforms, however I think we may be under-utilizing assets that we already have and those are a broadly adopted, intuitive, and widely understood platform to share information (email). There should be a way to extend email solutions to do more. Most enterprise collaboration suites are looking to move the user away from their email platforms and into a new interface (which may or may not have the functionality to pull in email) which of course makes it difficult for adoption, deployment, training, defining use cases, and a host of other things. I understand the difficulty and the necessity in being able to manage information, however email (and email addresses) seem to be the greatest identifier of people online that we have thus far. So why not leverage that into something more? I’m not saying I’m right but I do believe that email providers have a strong opportunity to move into enterprise collaboration.
I should mentioned however, that I have done some research on a few companies that have been able to execute enterprise collaboration amazingly well with these new tools (and also aggregated many more stories and examples of enterprise 2.0), but is this the best way? Is it the only way?
What do you think? Can we build on top of email for enterprise collaboration or is this just a lost cause?