I’ve heard this one a few times. “Yeah, we’re fully digital. We do literally everything via email.”

This was said without any hint of irony.

Before we get into any kind of ‘email is dead’ discourse, it’s important to point out that email is indeed a very current digital tool – not, as some would have us believe, a legacy one. However, it’s all about context. As a notification tool, it has some compelling validity. As an external communication tool, it remains peerless, as the lowest common denominator. However, as an internal communication tool, there are far better alternatives – trust us.

The biggest challenge with internal email in the corporate environment, is that conversations can quickly become overwhelming and difficult to follow. Furthermore, the decisions made by individual correspondents at various points in the chain, often make it nigh on impossible to keep on top of who is – and is not – in the loop. Indeed, there are those who would use the cc and bcc as weapons of choice on the corporate politics battlefield.

Email, then, can be hard to navigate, divisive in the wrong hands, and a source of stress, as messages begin to pile up, unabated.

Also, believe it or not, the workplace is now awash with jolly young upstarts who have been inducted into digital communication not principally via email, but via social media, SMS and WhatsApp. So it’s no longer appropriate to assume that email is understood and appreciated in the workplace. In many cases, companies need to recognise how imperative it is to actually train their workforce on email management and etiquette, if they want its use in the workplace to be meaningful and successful.

So, the alternatives then? Well, assuming that the goal of technology in this context is to promote openness, transparency, a degree of autonomy, and to negate the need to mine for up-to-date information, implementing a secure collaboration platform or social intranet would be a smart starting point. To be clear, a ‘secure collaboration platform’ does not mean an old-school, top-down intranet for ‘the management’ to broadcast at the employees. It means a place (website or app) where the team can function together, to get meaningful work done, with the minimum of friction and with maximum clarity.

Want concrete examples? While we can’t make specific recommendations without first getting to know your corporate culture and requirements, it’s fair to say there are some good examples worth mentioning out there. Note that there’s a kind of ‘functionality spectrum’ here, so some tools/platforms have more of a focus on messaging (Slack, Stride), whereas others are targeted more closely at project management (Asana, Wrike), or structured ‘social’ databases with workflow automation capabilities (Podio, Smartsheet). There’s often significant overlap in functionality, so companies will need to allocate plenty of time and resource to investigating which solution is the right fit, or seek expert advice. We would caution against analysis paralysis though. The quest for the perfect platform may transpire to be something of a fool’s errand.

Don’t be put off though, as there are numerous benefits to be had by ditching internal email in favour of a more effective digital platform:

  • – greater transparency over what’s going on in your team or on your project
  • – better links to related artefacts, such as spreadsheets and documents
  • – improved ability to tune into what’s relevant, and dismiss what’s not
  • – uniform experience for all participants (not contaminated by the idiosyncrasies of different email clients)
  • – integration with company resources, such as HR documentation, sales presentations and white papers
  • – social features such as ‘@mentioning’ and tagging
  • – ability to hold and view conversations in the proper context

It’s possible to implement a new collaboration platform in a microbusiness within a day, or in an SME within a week, if the will is there. If you’re serious about transforming how things get done in your business, and would like to know more, contact us for an informal chat.