Is E-Mail obsolete?
This question seems to be everywhere these days. Marc Zukerberg (CEO of Facebook) made this prediction in 2011, possibly based on his assumption that Facebook will ultimately replace everything. However, some trends do appear to support the idea, such as studies from tech analyst firm ComScore which found that email use by teenagers had dropped by almost 60% between 2010 and 2011. What if, the argument goes, teens today arrive in tomorrow’s workforce with radically different communication skills and preferences which don’t include e-mail?
Instead, communication may one day be based on lighter, more collaborative platforms such as wikis or other social media tools. Zuckerberg has said that e-mail is too cumbersome and “heavy”, and strategists like Don Tapscott have suggested that e-mail will eventually become a bad memory as we get used to creating, editing and collaborating on projects in wikis, alerting colleagues to new developments via microblogs and instant messages, and begin moving away from a storage and access model for information management to one of content collaboration.
Although studies from analysts like Pew or MarketTools seem to show little movement towards abandoning email, there have recently been some early converts who have already gone in this direction. Over the last couple of years, large companies such as Atos (a large French IT services firm), LAC Group (an LA-based professional services company), PR firm Weber Shandwick, and others have abolished emails in favour of enterprise social networking platforms. According to Toronto Life (April 2013 issue), executives at Intel, Deloitte and Veritas have implemented the same idea. In a Globe & Mail article last month, the CEO of Klick Health drew the analogy to Henry Ford, who once said “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. So is email just a “faster horse” than a paper memo, and will social and collaborative tools be the Model T that truly changes the paradigm?
What if e-mail at your organization disappeared tomorrow? Does your organization currently use wikis, enterprise social networking tools or even public social media sites like LinkedIn or Twitter to conduct company business? Some of the information generated, stored and deleted on these systems are records. Even if most of this information doesn’t need to be managed for operational reasons, it may still have regulatory, evidentiary or archival value. Because of the nature of collaborative platforms, this information can’t really be managed the same way as other storage media, which means there may be some important implications and challenges for information managers. Even though it doesn’t seem today like e-mail is going anywhere, technological shifts can happen very quickly and we may find ourselves in a very different situation in just a few years. Are you ready?