Why neither email nor chat work in a modern workplace

Most people around the world have complained at some point about their email overload. We all know it can be inefficient and disorientating but in some ways this criticism is unfair because email is a 40-year-old technology that was never really designed to do the job we ask of it.

It was built for sending and receiving letters in electronic form, as that was all that was needed in the 70s when work was done in highly hierarchical organisations and communication between companies was often a simple and linear transfer of information.

Today businesses thrive and create through teamwork and collaboration, not just within their own teams but also with their customers and partners. Email, despite its wonderful universality, does not support this way of working.

>See also: Mobile collaboration: Bringing new-world communication to the enterprise

There are numerous examples where it falls short. When a conversation starts to grow in terms of members, and those members naturally start changing, problems can easily arise.

With email it can actually be difficult to leave a conversation. Even if someone has asked not to be included in future messages, someone can "reply all" to a previous message and they are back in the thread. This can lead to a bewildering list of mails where the conversation loses its efficiency.

Engaging in a different kind of online conversation can also be much more natural – it moves the tone away from a transactional and reporting style to one which is much more akin to a real-time face-to-face meeting. But it comes with the added benefit of being able to give your response when you have the right focus and time available to you.

There will never be a true substitute for people getting round a table together – but in an increasingly globalised world this is becoming more difficult to achieve and sometimes having the opportunity to respond outside of real time can be advantageous.

So just as Skype revolutionised voice and video calling, now a range of tech companies are trying to disrupt the way we communicate with text. New tools are being developed to support modern communication; tools that are optimised for conversations, like modern messengers.

Messenger apps are already proving to be attractive alternatives for internal business conversations. US firm Slack has gained 750,000 users and the Japanese start-up ChatWork is a growing enterprise social network used by 66,000 companies.

Most of these products are based on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) technology, which is great for ensuring more productive talks for teams, but still leaves a gap for external communications.

Messaging company Fleep uses this technology to be a messenger that integrates with email networks, so email users can join a conversation without the need to sign up to a new service or download a new app – they can participate via email and switch over whenever they like.

Integration with email is something the world learned from how mobile phone networks were introduced alongside the legacy system of landlines – first mobile phone users were able to call to all landlines and vice versa. Now there are many people who only have a mobile.

>See also: Why businesses must let employees choose the collaboration tools they use

It will take time for the world to wean itself off email and indeed there will still be some use cases where it will always excel, such as the sending of invoices or mass distribution of marketing.

However modern enterprise businesses must decide whether they think the lowest common denominator of email is something they want to persevere with – or whether they want to choose a more productive and modern platform.


Sourced from Henn Ruukel, CEO of Fleep

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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