As 2012 draws to a close, thought leaders and industry experts are issuing business predictions for the next one, five, even 10 years. With all the technological innovation and change swirling in the business sector, it’s easy to overlook one of the most tried-and-true business staples -- email.

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Mobile, social and cloud technologies are standard features of a year-in-review or what’s-to-come story, as any look back at the headlines of 2010 and 2011 will show you. More recently, analytics and Big Data have been hot-button topics that are fast emerging as must-have business differentiators. But email?

Not nearly as hyped as smartphones, less novel than social networks, email is the workplace equivalent of Old Faithful and has withstood the test of time ever since its inception.

Nowadays, taking away someone’s email would render them nearly as useless as if you took away their computer or smartphone.

With 2013 fast approaching, now seems like the perfect time to look at how email is evolving, and how the inbox of the future may be very different than the one we use today.

It’s no revelation that since the days of fax machines and Rolodexes, workplaces have undergone significant change. Office workers still answer phones, type at keyboards and gather in conference rooms. Only now they’re also videoconferencing, instant messaging, blogging, texting, replying to tweets, reading through recent network updates and toggling between countless other windows and documents to gather intelligence on customers, partners and prospects.

In short, there’s more noise to contend with. But it’s also necessary, because all that noise serves a purpose. Organizations are embracing technologies such as analytics and social networks to derive value from the noise to achieve three business goals:

  1. Deepen expertise, and infuse everyday business processes to make better decisions, faster.
  2. Inspire engagement and knowledge-sharing beyond traditional organizational and geographic boundaries.
  3. Leverage collective intelligence to create customer advocates and anticipate market demand.

Email can equip organizations with the tools they need to communicate openly and quickly -- but the reality is that, all too often, it has the opposite effect.

The average office worker now spends more than 25 percent of their day dealing with email. It’s become a waste of time and inhibits group conversations, project management, timely notifications and file sharing. Analysts have even predicted that by 2014, 20 percent of business users will use social networking instead of email as their primary communication source.

Will email Finally Meet its Maker?

With approximately 145 billion corporate emails sent on a daily basis -- a number that’s only expected to rise in 2013 -- email is still the reigning champion of the enterprise collaboration world. For reference, there are roughly only 2.5 billion Facebook posts per day, and 400 million tweets.

Instead of fading away, email will evolve into a social platform. It’s already starting to happen – businesses that have cracked the code when it comes to the evolution of the inbox already have a leg up on the competition.

Enter the Social Mail Experience

What exactly is social mail? In a nutshell, it creates a more effective workforce by unifying messaging and other business applications to reduce context switching. It frees up email, calendar, to-do and other messaging and collaboration from the client application.

Not only does this consolidation yield time savings, it also drives better decision-making through real-time access to the right information and expertise and creates a more engaged workforce through a collaborative working environment.

Modern workplaces are on the brink of an email revolution. No longer a static medium, in 2013 email will become a critical business tool that brings people together in a collaborative and social way.

2012 saw heavy competition in the business world. 2013 will be no different -- if anything, the stakes will be even higher.

In today’s sink-or-swim environment, everything comes down to the people who make up your organization. Business leaders are hard-pressed to discover and share expertise in order to remain competitive and gain market advantage, regardless of their industry. They must accommodate demand for 24/7 mobile connectedness, and maintain customer relationships in an age where customers are increasingly vocal, influential, and have high brand expectations.

Workers today must cope with mountains of information, email and task overload, and countless applications that bog them down instead of boosting efficiency. Coping with all this data means time lost, as well as untapped expertise that becomes mired in inefficient processes rather than shared throughout the greater company network.

Social mail presents a solution to this dilemma -- a way to streamline the noise by integrating and consolidating information and interactions. It effectively becomes a dashboard that saves time and improves sharing -- which, in turn, improves decision making and ultimately creates a smarter workforce.

Image courtesy of Markus Gann (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Curious to read more about the future of email? Check out Daanish Khan's recent feature: To Email or To Collaborate: Unlocking Value of Social Collaboration