People are drowning in digital overloaded. We’re sitting at our desks switching programs some 37 times an hour, the New York Times reports. Dealing with too much information, and Alt-tabbing constantly between too many incredibly-useful-but-disjointed tools (email, instant messaging, Google Docs or Microsoft SharePoint document sites, and video conferencing) is a constant metal locomotion that robs us of our ability to focus.
Sorely missing is a unifying platform which bring these social and collaboration tools into a unified context, where people can easily learn about the people their communicating with; pick and choose the most convenient way to connect with other people; and then archive the conversation. Facebook’s new Social Inbox may very well serve this purpose at home, but what about at work?
I believe the unifying platform for the foreseeable future will be "social email." Here’s why:
1 -- People fritter away hours every work day in their email client, slogging through messages and managing calendar appointments and tasks. According to a recent People – Onthego survey, the average information worker spends 3.3 hours a day dealing with e-mail, and 65 percent keep their e-mail client open all the time.
2 -- Documents are the byproduct of most business collaboration, and most people share documents as email attachments. According to a recent uSamp survey, 83 percent of business email users prefer to ping pong attachments left and right. Essentially, people use email as a personal document repository, instead of using a library service for check in, check out, and versioning control. The inevitable result is document chaos, with multiple iterations of a document swelling your Inbox and festering there long after the document is done.
3 -- Facing the shock of a major IT change, many business users dig in their heels and resist it with all their might -- especially when it requires a change in work habits. The common adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is alive and kicking in corporate offices. The corollary, then, is to keep IT simple, and as much as possible, stick with what people know.
4 -- Your list of colleagues and their contact information is rooted in email. The most natural place to collaborate is where your social graph resides. Duh.
5 -- Social email is what people want. Turning "email pain" into an "email pane" enables you to hover over a sender’s name to learn about the person who sent you an email. You can see if she’s available to collaborate, and initiate an email exchange. Or, if needed, you can quickly move to a higher-bandwidth communication channel, without having to open multiple windows in order to reach other applications.
6 -- ECM systems that depend on SharePoint will be ineffective if you can’t get people to upload document attachments on SharePoint. Intercepting and uploading email attachments is an elegant way to populate SharePoint, without interfering with business user’s work habits. The ability drag emails to upload them in SharePoint is a must, if you want email correspondence to be an integral part of the record.
7 -- In the evolutionary world of business, the most adaptable product survives. The email client is one such resilient technology. Because Gmail, Outlook, and Lotus Notes have all embraced an extensible architecture, third-parties like Mainsoft and and Mashin can easily develop and distribute their own add-ons.
8 -- You already own email. It is far more practical to extend it than to rip and replace it with an unproven technology that your business users will resist, anyways. Or do you prefer to live on the edge?
Today's guest blogger is David Lavenda. For the past 20 years, David has served as an executive for a number of high-tech companies, including his current position as Vice President of Marketing for Mainsoft and co-founder of Business Layers, an identity management company. David is also a technology expert blogger for Fast Company and DistractedEnterprise.com. In his free time, he is pursuing advanced studies in STS (Science, Technology, and Society) - focusing on the research of online behaviors.
He can be reached on LinkedIn and Twitter:
Mainsoft, the creator of harmon.ie (pronounced harmony), has been delivering, cross-platform enterprise solutions since 1993. Since its inception, Mainsoft has generated over $120M of revenues through OEM relationships with some of the largest software vendors including Oracle Siebel, SAP Business Objects, IBM Rational, IBM Cognos, Mentor Graphics, Cadence Design and ESRI.