Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A company without email? Hardly.

Its days like this when I love my work: the intersection of marketing and collaboration technology sometimes just hits all cylinders. Like today. An old story was brought back to life with a new story.

The old story: ever since the dawn of social networks -- whether consumer or commercial -- and more recently with the Enterprise 2.0 trend (one of those terms that seems to have disappeared from the lexicon, and replaced with Social Business or other terms), the death of email has been trumpeted over and over again.

That's the inevitable trend of things in this world of 24-hour, instantaneous news cycles:

  1. new thing hits the market
  2. revolution is in the air
  3. _____________ is dead! Long live _____________!
  4. New thing turns out to be not quite the solution everyone thought it would be
  5. New thing actually has real use cases completely different than what it was supposed to kill
  6. Old thing still quite alive and kicking, but not sexy anymore
  7. new thing hits the market / rinse / lather / repeat
The e-mail is dead meme resurfaced a couple of years ago with high profile instances like Atos' CEO making a bold claim to completely eliminate email from his workplace (how did that work out?).

I've been saying for quite some time that the stats don't bear this narrative out. The new story is that people are recognizing this again.

Mail is still by far the #1 used collaboration tool in business. It's use is actually GROWING, not shrinking. And now comes this timely little article in the Wall Street Journal (hardly the paragon of the cutting edge, and therefore a good barometer of the mass market). What's fascinating about the Wall Street Journal article is the description of what startups are actually doing. It's less about eliminating email and more about fast experiments on rethinking it for a more social, mobile, cloud-based world. They're just scratching the surface of how to rethink email.

Rethinking email is something IBM has been doing since introducing version 8.5 of it's venerable Notes and Domino franchise. 8.5 introduced deeper integration of social network profiles, microblogging and filesharing through its integrated sidebar applications. Version 9 took that concept a step further with in-mail embedded integration of pretty much any OpenSocial enabled content - status update streams, file and video previews, forms, heck, pretty much anything you could put an OpenSocial wrapper on.

And IBM continues that with an even bolder step coming later this year, IBM Mail Next. If you think of Notes 8.5 and 9 as variations on an existing theme, think of Mail Next as an entirely new movement. Hints of the email of old morph and merge in ways that Millenials in particular would appreciate and understand more:

  • not folders, but sets and fast and faceted search (like your favorite e-commerce site or search engine)
  • not first-in/first-out, but what's important to me right now
  • not an overfilled inbox-as-todo-list, but conversation threads that bob and weave with my workload and workday
  • not dumb, preset rules (can you really call those "smart folders"???) but rather built-in intelligence that learns from my own behavior to help me prioritize what I owe someone and what they owe me.
It's interesting as a marketer to be in a space where the new and the old are coming together in such a fascinating way. It's going to be a fun rest of 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment