Engaging outside the inbox

Doing some email housekeeping earlier this morning, I got thinking about the futility of much of one’s day-to-day email.

Even though I’ve been using a nifty program called NEO Pro for the better part of the past decade that sits on top of Outlook, and which automates the essentials of email organization for me, I just asked myself: Why?

emaildroneI’m increasingly finding that the most useful, valuable and effective ways to exchange written thoughts, ideas and then make decisions involve the informality of connecting with people via social networks rather than email.

For me, that typically means – in order of preference – Twitter direct messages, Google+ private messages and, in distant third place, LinkedIn inmail or groups. I’m increasingly hearing how people are using Yammer or Salesforce’s Chatter within the enterprise to equal good effect.

Ah, but what about file attachments and other enterprise-essential items? you will ask. You still need email for that. Conventional thinking would agree with you. But just ask yourself: Why? Some enterprise tools like Chatter allow file sharing. I’m increasingly using tools like Dropbox for that rather than bloating up everyone’s Outlook PST databases or Exchange Server inboxes with attachments. I’ve not yet made a conventional jump to the cloud with tools like Google Docs, but that day may come. Or not: a combination of Twitter, Google+ and Dropbox is excellent so far.

Most people I know who work for large organizations say formal channels like email won’t change. I say: Why? If people like Luis Suarez – he works for IBM, lives (and works) in the Canary Islands and hasn’t done traditional email for more than three years – can dispense with email in a big-organization setting, why not you?

See what you think after watching this documentary-interview about Luis and email.

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

Engaging outside the inbox makes sense. Don’t you think? Share your thoughts here. Or let Luis know what you think. (No, that’s not an email link.)

[Later] An article in yesterday’s Financial Times headlined The end of email? reminded me that what to do about email is a subject lots of people are thinking about. Indeed, taking concrete action, such as what’s happening at French-based global tech company Atos where its CEO has stated that his 74,000-employee company will ban email for internal communication by 2013. It’s not all email but it’s a huge start to kick-start a huge task of change moving towards team-based, collaborative social communication tools and channels.

On a smaller scale, there’s Canadian digital marketing agency Klick that has already banned all internal email use. Klick CEO Leerom Segal is quoted as saying:

While email makes for a decent communication tool with clients, internally it doesn’t facilitate collaboration and basic workflow. Email has no intelligent mechanisms for prioritization, lacks context, lacks a framework for knowledge management, and saps accountability.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way?

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About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.