The team at Igloo Software is making a big promise. It claims it can help you tame your email — and rediscover it as an effective communication tool.

That's the role email should rightly have in the enterprise, Andrew Dixon, SVP of sales and Marketing at Kitchener, Ontario-based Igloo explained. It was never intended for collaboration.

Igloo develops online communities and social software for business. Its next release, scheduled for in July, focuses on integration and interoperability, which Dixon described as the first step toward putting social and email back in their respective and rightful places.

“The whole idea is to provide workers with views of the tools and information they require in the context of the workflow they're in. So if they're working in a document, they need access to their Salesforce information or Box files or their microblogging tools. We aim to bring all those tools together in a single pane of glass,” Dixon told us.

“We can already do parts of this. But you need to have a very intuitive integration framework that allows you to connect with anteing and that you have a presentation and connection layer for anything.”

Igloo’s Strategy

From the start, Igloo’s aim was to provide an intranet that offered all the collaboration and communication tools workers needed to enable them separate email and social tools.

The idea, Dixon said, is not to replace email — because that’s just not going to happen — but to return to a point in time where email was viewed as a communication tool and not a collaboration tool.

“We are often asked [by enterprise customers] if we are a replacement for email. The way to really think about it is that email is too stretched because it's being used in ways for which it was never designed,” he said.

The result is what Dixon describes as the inappropriate use of email and the kind of figures that we saw earlier this year from Pew Research. In January, Pew noted that email is far more popular than social media and texting, despite the growth of social networks.

More importantly, it found that most office workers find working, collaborating and communicating by email is easier than other technologies and a core part of their work life.

According to Skyhigh Networks, the average company uses 923 cloud services, 49 file sharing services and 162 collaboration services.

 The result: It's become increasingly difficult for workers to collaborate effectively because each team seems to use a different tool. In addition, content resides in different silos and conversations happen everywhere and anywhere.  

“Millennials haven’t grown up with [email] so all of their focus is on social tools. They expect to use tools other than email. So all these things are coming together, placing stress on the traditional use of email,” he said.

Sorting It Out

To use content effectively, Dixon argues, content requires three things: organization, architecture and search. Content and discussions about that content is what all social networks are trying to tie together.

 “Discussions are ad hoc, they happen randomly. Content is far more structured. The secret sauce is when you can unite the two and you can have discussions about your content. Where it goes horribly wrong is where you have content in one place and discussions in another. Such is the case of email and email attachments. In the body of the email you have the discussions, in the attachments you have the content,” he said.

So what does he suggest? He said workers should collaborate in their intranet because it includes content management and has a built in information architecture. Email should be used for notifications that direct users back to the corporate intranet.

“That's the marriage that makes the most sense. It will result in a huge number of notifications, hut they are one line links that redirect people back to where you want them to go. Therefore it is a very useful use of email and goes way beyond the use of email with attachments,“ he said.

July Release

The real problem though is the email mindset. Users need effective tools to get them to look beyond email. This is where Igloo has expertise and what it will do with the July release. Among the additions are:

  • A widget builder that will enable users to display of third-party or custom content within the context of the Igloo platform
  • Abilities to configure intranets using a combination of apps via the drag-and-drop interfac
  • Easier sharing of Illustrator (.ai, .eps) and Photoshop (.psd) files
  • Abilities to share Adobe Creative Suite files, even with people who don’t have Adobe products installed on their computers
  • New preview file capabilities in any web browser on a PC, mobile device or tablet, the ability to provide feedback in comments and the option to assign tasks to track changes and approvals

The platform brings together internal communication and collaboration in a secure way, he said.

Title image by ifindkarma.

Title image by Adam Rifkin.