With all the technological advancements over the last few years, most of us now take our business and social devices and applications for granted. It’s hard to believe that the iPhone is only five years old. Did you know that 90 million Americans access email through a mobile device and 64% do this on a daily basis?
But for all these improvements, it’s amazing that the most widely used communication tool, email, hasn’t really changed from its original design and use. We compose, address, CC, BCC and send. The terms CC and BCC should be a clue as to how long ago email was designed (just try to find an actual piece of carbon paper in the supply closet).
An area that’s especially ripe for change when it comes to email is collaboration. Most of us open our inboxes every morning only to see a rash of new emails about a particular project. While there have been some improvements in email that allow conversation threads to stay together, most of the time we are still forced to read through all of them. Then there is spam, and I’m not talking about the salted meat. If you are like me, searching for an email is like searching for a needle in a haystack. My important email is hidden amongst a mix of “daily deal” or “retail flash sale” messages.
There have been attempts at improvement of the basic email. Anyone who’s ever dealt with a law firm has received a redlined document with tracked changes, and years ago, a popular word processing program allowed users to route a document (only to remove the feature in a later version). But even those required sending and reading an email and making sure you kept track of where you were in the process.
Thankfully, cloud-based collaboration platforms are changing the game. With user interfaces designed like their social media counterparts, these business collaboration tools provide users with a place to upload, comment on and change important documents and files. Think of it as the difference between getting an email invitation from and old friend vs. connecting with that same friend and others on social media. This first is a one-way communication that requires you to reply, while the other provides you with an instant platform to review pictures, communicate, plan or just stay in the loop.
Now I’m not saying to go without email. In fact, these new collaboration tools allow you to respond within an email and have the contents of that email automatically update the particular project you are working on. But rather than being the world’s main electronic communication method, the time may finally come when email is relegated to it’s place as one of many more robust channels.
posted by Catherine Brown