You come in, sit down, and log in. Your morning coffee steams while you peruse the dozens of emails that await you. Some are important. Some are even urgent. But most are destined for the trash. You grind through your inbox, replying to some and flagging others for later. And by the time your real work starts, your coffee is cold and you can’t find that one important email your client sent yesterday.
It’s a ritual that millions of professionals love to hate. Mercifully, change seems to be coming. As the boundaries of digital communication mediums continue to blur, email, the venerable staple of businesses the world over, may soon be overshadowed. This leaves many companies questioning, is this the end of email?
Overloaded, Inefficient, and Insecure
The idea of a workplace without email may seem unimaginable. But email as a means of business communication has become a cumbersome thing. It’s an ineffective way to manage projects and communication. The crush of irrelevant messages creates unnecessary workplace stress. And inbox stress is hardly a new phenomenon.
“Most companies are grappling with email overload,” says Monica Seeley, 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.”
Factor in the nearly 100 billion spam emails sent daily (yes, daily) and the results are clear: email, a method of communication that was once lauded for its efficiency, has turned out to be anything but.
Security is another major concern for businesses. With WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and other “leak” debacles blaring from the headlines, business leaders are confronted with the dangers of unprotected emails almost daily. And yet studies showed that fewer than 21 percent of companies use an email encryption solution. Why companies continue to neglect email security is a mystery, but the ramifications of unsecured email systems are grim indeed.
It’s hardly surprising that people are increasingly turning away from email, both at work and at home. The daily number of emails sent by professionals peaked in 2008 and has been declining steadily since. Similarly, young people – tomorrow’s professionals – vastly prefer social media and texting to email.
New Solutions to an Old Problem
Change is finally on the horizon. Though the end of email in the workplace has been predicted before, there are now a number of viable alternatives that pose a genuine threat to email’s dominance.
One increasingly popular alternative is Yammer, a provider of internal social networks for companies. There are no cat photos or recipes here. Instead, Yammer enables person-to-person communication in a method similar to Facebook’s walls. Yammer users can also create meetings, share documents, and acts as a centralized location for institutional knowledge, all in a mobile-friendly package that’s much cleaner and more organized than a cluttered inbox. Big names like Ford, eBay, and DHL have already adopted Yammer, a powerful testament to its potential as an alternative to email.
Salesforce’s Chatter offers much of the basic functionality of Yammer, but adds enhanced workflow management, sales lead management, and issue resolution options critical to large sales-driven organizations.
Some companies have become so fed up with email that they’ve opted to build internal solutions. One such company is Klick. Genome, their communication and workflow management platform, was born out of frustration with the shortcomings of email. According to a Klick press release, the award-winning system has been a “key competitive advantage,” contributing to Klick’s annual growth rate of 30 percent.
While these technologies and more offer significant promise for the future of business communications, we’re not out of the email woods just yet. The end of email may yet be a long way off. But business’s reliance on it as the primary means of communication may be coming to an end. For many harried professionals, that day can’t come soon enough.