If you find email more of a hindrance than a help, it's time to take a deeper look at collaborative work management (CWM).

Mark Mader, CEO of Bellevue, Wash.-based Smartsheet, argues CWM offers a better way to work.

And he's not alone: San Diego-based Axero, another social collaboration vendor, argues that productivity and collaboration suffer when organizations try to use email for instant messaging, social interactions, or other aspects of communication.

Social collaboration vendors want to return email to its original purpose — rapid communication — and move collaboration to a technology designed with teams in mind.

CWM platforms, Gartner explains, provide information on all the resources associated with a project, such as timelines, resources, budgets, dependencies or work status. They also make that information visible to everyone working on the project.

That is particularly useful for team members who are self-directed but need to monitor the progress of teammates, Gartner suggests.

Email is OK, But ...

“With digital business, email is no longer essential to projects, but essential to messaging. That is where people get confused. They end up trying to manage projects in the inbox itself and that’s where we feel a lot of project failures or hindrances lie,” Mader told CMSWire.

A recent study from Adobe suggests the average worker spends around 30 hours a week checking email — and that's just checking to see if there's new email, not reading or answering it.

More than two years ago, management consultant Oscar Berg told CMSWire readers, "We have been struggling with the downside of email for quite a while -- it's high time to act." His suggestions:

  • Opt out of email conversations
  • Avoid accidental information leakages by not using email to exchange important information
  • Avoid conversation chaos through email threads by limiting the number of recipients
  • Don’t exchange information that you want accessible to others through email.

Berg identified social networks as the solution to email overload.

But CWM takes the problem a step further, Mader explained. While the technology isn't new, it's getting a second look because of the Office 365 surge, which has brought the email issue front and center.

More companies are moving their inboxes from on-premises to the cloud. But the cloud has its own problems, particularly data security, access and offering third-party collaborators access to data stored in private clouds behind the firewall.

So what's an organization supposed to do with all that email?

Taming Email

Mader said independent researchers like Gartner view CWM as an option. He suggests five practical reasons why it's better than email for managing projects.

Cuts Endless Threads: “People don’t necessarily trust the last comment in a thread as the solution to a problem. They have to go all the way back up to check the first email. With CWM, you know where to get that final answer."

Reduces Lost Messages: “If you don’t see an email and its content in the overall context of the task, you are forced to make assumptions. Collaborative work management enables us to take all the data about a project together that means that if I see one comment on one item I will see it in the context of the overall project."

Centralizes Information: All information about a project is available to workers, third parties and contractors.

Syncs Data: CWM provides a single version of the truth. With email, it's practically impossible to track a file when it’s being sent around to multiple people for edits, review and approvals.

Breaks Silos: All project document is available for anyone with an interest in seeing it.

Mader thinks CWM is not only here to stay, but exploding. “Today we are talking about a market that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but I think in the future this will be a multibillion dollar market.”

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