It's almost inevitable: You start a discussion about collaboration and teamwork in the workplace, and someone raises the question of email. Such was the case following a recent discussion about the relative merits of Microsoft Teams against the combined power of Google’s G Suite with a Slack integration. However, there does appear to be a consensus that no matter what anyone says, email isn’t going anywhere.

Collaboration offerings like Teams and Slack are gaining traction in the enterprise. However, despite widespread adoption of both tools, it will be a long time before they become as widely used as email due to a few factors Tim Platt, VP IT business services at Winter Park, Fla.-based Virtual Operations shared:

1. Everyone has an email address. Email has almost 100 percent market penetration. No organization will onboard a new employee tomorrow and not give them email. They might get a Slack or Teams account or they might not, but they certainly will have an email.

2. Email is a vendor neutral interoperable standard. No single company is in charge. You can exchange email with anyone on the planet, through a variety of mechanisms.

3. Email may or may not be cloud hosted. Want to keep very tight control over your emails (or maybe you need to due to government regulations)? You can host your email offering on server, on-premises. This is not an option for Slack and Teams.

4. Email is a well understood concept. Slack and similar solutions still have a way to go in that regard. In fact, despite its traction in the enterprise, research by Kitchener, Ontario-based Igloo indicated only 27 percent of employees say they connect with all of their co-workers on social media while 41 percent of employees use non-sanctioned apps in the workplace because that’s what they use in their personal lives.

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Email Still Has Its Uses

Igloo's State of the Digital Workplace, 2018 (registration required), which was published last June, found while employees are embracing digital tools for communication and collaboration, they still struggle to find the information they need to do their jobs. When they do locate a document, they’re not always sure it’s up to date. Even more concerning, many employees lack confidence in the security of their systems. For enterprises on the digital transformation path, these results reveal significant gaps where new and better solutions are needed.

The research, based on a survey of 1000 workers in US enterprises, also showed the average knowledge worker spends nearly 20 percent of the workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues to help with specific tasks. It’s no surprise, then, that 23 percent of respondents said it would take five to 10 minutes just to access the latest version of a standard template or document. Tracking down a basic brand asset — their own company logo — was similarly complicated, with 31 percent reporting they would use a Google search. The result is many are still reverting to email to share documents across the enterprise.

Matt Harris, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based Sendwithus, argued that while collaboration platforms — chat apps such as Slack and task management apps like Asana — are streamlining internal communications, some tasks are best left to email. “But while these tools may be changing when and how we use email at work, it’s a bit premature to predict the death of email,” he told CMSWire. “Anything of a confidential nature, ‘official’ communications, and messages that require more than a few sentences to explain all suit email better than other channels. And nurturing one-to-one customer relationships, particularly during the sales process, definitely works better via email.”

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Emails Enable Internal Communication

Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Gurgaon, India-based Mettl, said digital workplaces today are highly connected, with a lot of to and fro conversations and communication without which no concrete improvement or success can be achieved. These conversations take place via organizational email, social media, networking platforms or messenger.

Of all these, emails remains the most highly used mode of communication inside a workplace. “Emails bring an unparalleled professionalism into the communication and networking space. They carry an authority that is difficult to be beaten by the social media despite the latter's massive success and huge following. The reason lies in social media’s specificity and inclination towards catering to personal connections and communication more,” he said.

If you try reaching people on social media for any professional message, there is high likelihood of being ignored as opposed to a high likelihood that with emails as the mode, it will be more successful. Even if you wish to communicate about a personal event to your professional connections, you use emails to send them invites and notifications.

While email can be distracting and disruptive to everyday workflows, the reality is that its familiarity, standardization across organizations, ability to scale, and its searching and achieving features make it the go-to communications solution across organizations worldwide. There is also a huge opportunity for email to become more useful and provide an experience in line with how employees want to work. Emerging technologies are taking advantage of email being a single aggregation point information and providing employees new types of access to workflows and data through this channel.

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