Gartner has an interesting graphic they created which I stumbled upon after reading a CMSWire article. The image helps explain the email paradox which is email is not the best method for information sharing and distribution yet it’s not going to go away. The image compares email with social networking and looks at several variables. The most important portion of the visual which explains why email is not going to go away is ubiquity, this in my opinion is the greatest factor that is keeping email alive.
So if email isn’t going to go away what’s going to happen to it? Well there are a few interesting things that I’m seeing. Vendors such as Harmon.ie are actually leveraging email as the basis for a collaboration platform and embrace it. Other companies like the new Fluent, actually hook into your email (not for enterprise use yet but works with Gmail) and turn it into what looks like an activity stream with lots of interesting features; it basically takes email and makes a type of social network out of it, something which I find very interesting and believe we will see more of, especially around enterprise applications.
Other vendors out there are trying to get users away from email and companies such as Atos Origin are actually pledging to be a zero-email company within a few years, a daunting task. I don’t think email is going to die but I think it’s use as being the central tool for communicating and sharing and distributing information is going to change; especially within the enterprise. The challenge of course comes not just from interacting with employees but also with customers. Employees can easily rely on these types of collaboration platforms but what happens when a customer or prospect wants to get in touch with the company with a comment, complaint, or concern? Currently in this situation email still appears to be the most efficient tool BUT employees are now able to manage and respond to these emails via their internal collaboration platforms.
In other words, email may just start to act as the middle-man or routing system that moves information around between individuals but does so behind the scenes without us having to log into something such as Outlook. It can also become a simple notification system or a type of “pager” instead of an actual information sharing and communication platform.
When thinking about the future email it’s important to remember that email and phone numbers are currently the two unique identifiers that we as individuals have so it’s hard to imagine that email will completely die off.
What do you think the future of email is?
(Cross-posted @ Social Business Advisor: Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0)