Email as a collaboration tool is dying out in the workplace. The way we work and the way we communicate with each other is changing.
In fact, a recent Polycom survey indicates that video will be the number one preferred business communications tool by 2016, ahead of email and voice calls.
New trends are reshaping the look and feel of the workplace and are creating a paradigm shift in terms of the way we think of the “office.” We are in the era of the virtual workplace, with trends such as wearable technology, remote collaboration and the Internet of Things all contributing to the move towards the workplace of the future. Communication technology has advanced immensely over a range of modalities but it is alarming how little email has evolved.
Email is far from an ideal means of communication. With the modern knowledge worker often receiving well over 100 emails per day, this congestion means that people are often resorting to simpler means of communication such as voice, IM and SMS.
A new trend emerging is any-time communications – solutions that blend asynchronous communications such as email, social updates, and messaging with real-time communications such as voice and video conferencing. They offer an alternative over email for workflow and collaboration with a real-time component, while also facilitating cloud-based sharing.
Historically, real-time communication was instantaneous while asynchronous communication could take days, weeks, or even months in some cases (e.g. mail delivery).
Today the differences are mostly in format rather than timing, as the majority of all communications are capable of being instant. Conversations are now regularly occurring, near real-time, over a wide range of different communications solutions. When a co-worker sends you an email you can instantly pick it up and respond on your smartphone within seconds. The same goes for social updates and instant messaging.
The modern worker is more connected and communicative than ever before but conversations are still scattered across multiple, unrelated domains. Current unified communications solutions tie together features like voice, video and instant messaging, but not email.
Any-time communications acknowledges that conversations shift between asynchronous and real-time modalities. A conversation that has initiated via email may switch to SMS, voice or video call when one participant has to leave the office and communicate on the move from a different device and location.
The next-generation anytime communications platforms will focus on asynchronous messaging with intuitive capabilities for real-time communications. They support and store conversations, and as a result become central to workflow. Conversation history is retained as a shared record instead of duplicated records in private inboxes.
These tools also flip the model from exclusive to inclusive. Another problem with email is that when two parties exchange messages, they exclude everyone else for whom the conversation might be relevant. It is of course crucial to have privacy controls, but our options of reply-all and cc: can be ineffective, annoying, and frequently become productivity killers for others. We need to be able to share conversations and make them searchable without generating unnecessary interruptions.
That same conversation in an inclusive format may solicit unexpected but valuable input from other team members. Participation is optional and not intrusive. Other team members may benefit just from knowing about the conversation. This is a more suitable model for teams to work together.
Users engaging with these newer social technologies have reported more effective communications. They find and share content with ease, and claim to be more informed on relevant topics. They also realise the benefits of reduced email. Conversations morph and adapt among modalities and participants.
Reports of email's death may be exaggerated. The transformation will be gradual. Email is certainly valuable, and instead of replacing it as a communications tool, these newer forms of communications may in fact give it the boost it needs to reclaim its productivity.
Any-time communications is just one of several collaboration trends that are transforming the nature of the workplace and the way we will work in future. Learn more about how the workplace of the future will be revolutionised by the growth in video collaboration.
Image courtesy of Polycom