Most of us have a love/hate relationship with email. In spite of all its problems, email is still the main communication mechanism of corporate existence. That’s despite the spam, incessant interruptions and lack of proper tracking functionality.
I wonder if you’ve considered how insidious email is? Have you pondered the limiting effects of email on company collaboration for example.
- Notifications of updates to company intranets, issue tracking platforms and release procedures are often delivered via email.
- Reminders of workflow progress, forum responses and blog comments are all email reliant.
- We even have voicemail delivered to us via email these days.
We take the time and effort to introduce new communication mechanisms into the enterprise, but then repress them with email as the main notifier. That’s really inefficient.
Far from being made irrelevant via new collaboration tools, email use is actually increasing.
Speaking of inefficient, let’s consider meetings. In my experience there’s only one thing more unproductive than email, and that’s meetings. We spend so much time (mostly inefficiently) in meetings. But why are there so many meetings? I suggest its because of email. Consider how easy it is to call a meeting nowadays – its a simple email request. I’d like to see the correlation between the number of meetings people attend, and the ease at which meeting organization has been allowed via email requests over the last decade. I’ll wager that the rise of the unproductive meeting is another side effect of email :-).
And is it perhaps fitting that many people now spend time in meetings going through their email…
Microsoft’s Email Strategy
No surprise then that an email ‘platform’ is still a big money maker for Microsoft. Exchange – which granted is much more than just email – is a key strategy for the company, fitting in with its overall Unified Communications initiatives.
So, can Microsoft improve the efficiency of email? The news of Exchange 2010 being released later this year (beta available here) could be the start of an answer.
The feature list includes the support for ‘conversations’ (which I assume is similar to GMail’s much loved feature) and ‘email mute’ functionality to ignore certain email threads. MailTips will help you avoid the ‘Reply to All’ occurrences. All good improvements.
It doesn’t stop there. Exchange 2010 is also providing additional deployment options (you can mix both on-premises and partner capabilities) and archiving tools (as they address growing compliance requirements).
And then there’s the fact that Exchange 2010 is the first in the ‘next wave’. Here’s what the Microsoft PressPass announcement describes:
The next wave, which includes Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010 and Microsoft Project 2010, is designed to give people a consistent experience across devices, making it easier to create and edit documents and collaborate from any location.
This is good right? Reduce the barriers to entry with consistent UI**. That should give some gains.
This all sounds good.
But sadly, its missed the main need…
You can see what is happening here right? The next version of Exchange isn’t about improving the efficiency of email and combating all its side-effects. It’s not about reducing email or the time we spend consuming it. Sadly the reverse is true.
The result of all these improvements is that far from being reduced email is now being integrated into more and more of our lives, both business and personal. The inefficiency of email is hardly addressed, whilst its ubiquitousness gets yet another big push.
Corporate existence has been condemned to an even richer integration with inefficiency.
When will Email jump the shark? Answer: Never.
[**Aside: what about cross-product as well as cross-device UI consistency? This is something Adam Cogan has been lamenting (example) for many years – the fact that many Microsoft products have a completely different UI, so when you use Office it is different to SharePoint which is different to CRM which is different to Visual Studio which is different to the Live Essentials products and so on.]