Time to wave goodbye to email?

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Electronic mail, commonly referred to as e-mail since 1993, has become a pivotal part of our lives. With 39% of the global population using the internet (this rises to over 70% in developed countries), it is not surprising that email has become the communication method of choice. According to Mashable, 144.8 billion emails are sent each day - just over 20 emails for every single person on earth.

With this in mind, it’s no understatement that email has become a fundamental part of our lives. However, in the modern world where project teams often cross company borders (as well as international ones), is it time to look beyond email to more collaborative and intuitive tools?

Remember Google Wave? Probably not.  The big G launched that particular product back in 2009 – an in browser communication tool that was hailed by some as the next evolution of email. TechCrunch sum the idea up well in their review:

‘Everyone uses email and instant messaging on the web now, but imagine if you could tie those two forms of communication together and add a load of functionality on top of it - that’s essentially what Wave is.’

Google Wave - A remnant from Google's past.

However, Wave was destined for the Google Graveyard, taking its rightful place alongside projects such as Google Buzz and Google Answers. But why did Wave fail? There are a number of reasons raised by those who did get some time service during its limited run; an overly restrictive invitation only policy, the lack of a notification system and a relatively sluggish user experience to name just a few.  Quora user J E. Johansson is probably closest to a definitive answer;

‘Simply put, it was an amazing idea with decent execution but it was something only an engineer could fall in love with, and thus it failed to be adopted by the mainstream.’

Despite its failure, Wave gave us a taste of the kind of collaborative tool that could revolutionise the way teams work together. Now in 2014, some 5 years after Google Wave, new players in the market are beginning to emerge, looking for the ‘holy grail’ - email 2.0 if you will.

Introducing Business Collaboration

Dustin Moskovitz is a name synonymous with tech innovation – one of the infamous founding members of Facebook.  Since leaving the social media giant however, Moskovitz has been working alongside Justin Rosenstein, also of notable Facebook alum, on the task management software Asana.

‘Work without the drudgery’ Eric Markowitz describes it in his Inc.com article. The general aim of the software is to reduce the time people spend doing ‘work about work’; essentially sending emails, making phone calls and other bits of admin. Indeed, a 2012 McKinsey report suggested that the average worker spends 42% of their time either reading and answering emails or communicating and collaborating internally (see fig. 1). When you add the time spent information gathering into the mix, we find that workers shockingly spend just 39% of their time on role-specific tasks.

Figure 1 - (Source: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_social_economy)

Software like Asana and its compatriots are attempting to combat this apparent loss of productivity head on, by making collaboration easier, quicker and more intuitive.

Sounds great, right? And by all accounts it may well be. Whether it is indeed Asana or one of a myriad of competitors (see getflow, LiquidPlanner and Teamstuff to name just a few), it’s quite easy to envisage how software of this nature could revolutionise the way we work.

There is a significant barrier such services must overcome to achieve large-scale success however – adoption. While take up is strong from tech-savvy startups, the much harder challenge will be encouraging larger enterprises to make the jump. As companies grow, many become increasingly cumbersome and resistant to change. Business processes become woven into the company’s very fibre – which can be very hard to break. Embracing a new way of collaboration is not as simple as investing in new software, it requires a change in culture; a new way of thinking.

Generation Y - Does modern collaboration require large businesses to adopt a whole new mindset?

The key for this particular lock therefore, may be in the targeting. Software sales teams should look to introduce their services not simply to a new company, but to particular teams within a company. By ‘infiltrating’ individual teams for their internal projects, business collaboration services should be able to grow their presence gradually within a larger business - and I mean gradually, this isn’t a change that will happen quickly. There are a significant number of workers out there who are so intrinsically invested in a certain way of working that it is simply unlikely they will ever change. Task management software therefore, is probably an idea that sits best with Generation Y; 18-32 y/o millennials. However, with Forbes reporting that 50% of professional millennials are already in leadership positions, perhaps the end of email really is on the (distant) horizon.

Do you use software to help organise your teams? Drop us a comment or a tweet (@perceptiveflow) - would be great to hear your thoughts.

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