Because email is such a collaboration killer, teams that rely on it to function are rarely performing at optimum levels
It’s a story that’s all too familiar: You have a piece of valuable information you need to share with your colleagues and across the executive team. This communication is crucial to ensuring the current top-priority project is completed on time and under budget. So, you shoot out an email in the hope that it will successfully get everyone on the same page.
Half of the executives do not read it. Most of those that do don’t take action right away, and ultimately forget about it. Some do read it, pay attention to it, and redirect their efforts in the right direction — but that’s not enough support to get the necessary task across the finish line. And so, delays and confusion and internal resentment over who should’ve done what abound.
Email: The Pitfalls
This scenario illustrates today’s reality that email is a challenging collaboration tool, and not the best way to send an important message. In fact, more often than not, it’s one of the least effective ways.
Simply put, email is a lowest common denominator technology. It largely still works like it did in the 1980s and will likely not be able to evolve much more. Consequently, the inherent limitations of email continue to plague team collaboration efforts on a daily basis.
Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Needle in a Haystack. Email is a terrible repository for company knowledge. Searching email is extremely difficult for any employee who needs to find an email from several weeks in the past.
- No accountability. Employees can dismiss responsibilities by saying, “I didn’t get that email.” This limitation has spawned an entire ecosystem of email tracking tools which all have their own limitations.
- Missed information. Important messages are often hidden among nonessential information within the body of the email — or worse, buried at the bottom of a long chain of emails beneath a single line that says: “Re: See below, FYI.”
- No sense of urgency. There’s often no incentive to respond to emails in a timely manner (or in some cases, to respond at all). Sometimes senior executives are cc’d on emails just to ensure that the primary recipients reply.
- Miscommunication. Because team emails with groups included on a “reply-all” thread include information from multiple people, scrolling through the chain can be like playing a game of telephone. By the end, the message has often been completely muddled.
- Varying style. Some emails are extremely long and others terse. The free text format means that often the message is missed due to stylistic difference. At best the subject line is the main way to convey importance (and “urgent — please read” is not a guarantor of success).
Workflow Platforms Encourage Collaboration
Collaboration is crucial for effective teamwork. It’s also a key component of innovation, streamlined production processes, successful project launches, and overall company growth. But because email is such a collaboration killer, teams that rely on it to function are rarely performing at optimum levels.
Luckily, professionals aren’t stuck conducting business via this broken avenue forever. Alternative tech solutions have been stepping up to the plate for years — and they’re totally changing the game.
Powerful workflow platforms such as Dropbox, Zendesk, Jira, and Salesforce have emerged to replace email as the solution for sharing files, customer support communications, managing projects and maintaining a contact rolodex. They’re accomplishing this by offering specific solutions that cater to the needs of specific workflows for professionals. While general purpose messaging tools like Slack solve some of these challenges as well, they introduce other issues with increased noise and sloppy presentation which is a better fit for more casual communications.
The Future of Communication Is Collaboration Tech that Truly Sends a Message
Make no mistake: Email isn’t dead — not even close. But, its influence is steadily waning for teams who need solutions to specific business problems. Dedicated solutions designed to support individual business functions continue to emerge and chip away at email as the solution for everything.
The emergence of these communication tools has paved the way for a future in which teams have access to the platforms they need to get their job done quickly, efficiently, and effectively. And that’s great news for company-wide transparency and team efforts across the board.
About the author: Boris Markovich is the founder and CEO of StreetReader, a mobile-first enterprise software company. Previously, he worked at Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, UBS, JP Morgan and a few other interesting places. You can also follow him on Twitter where he shares his views and articles on investing, technology, mobile, data, equity research, investor relations and finance.
StreetReader is the leading investor relations engagement platform. We empower Investor Relations programs to dramatically enhance their communications. StreetReader enables effective communication of critical insight to internal stakeholders and helps IR teams gain recognition for their work. Learn more at streetreader.com.