Moving beyond the e-mail paradigm

* E-mail has been stretched beyond its original limits and is now used for tasks for which it was not designed

E-mail is a very useful tool for transmitting information and files, managing content of various types, setting up appointments, managing tasks and, in many cases, e-mail is used as a sort of real-time communications tool. Most of us use e-mail for these tasks and have come to rely on it as our primary communications medium for roughly three-quarters of the information we send during a typical workday.

However, e-mail is perhaps too easy to use and too ubiquitous. What I mean is that e-mail has been stretched beyond its original limits and is now used for tasks for which it was not designed. For example, e-mail was never designed to efficiently transmit huge files or provide a real-time communications experience – it’s used for both tasks by many because e-mail has become the de facto tool for virtually all communications.

What organizations need, therefore, is to disintegrate communications functions by using a broader and more granular set of capabilities and, at the same time, integrate them into a unified communications system that will make them easy for IT to manage and for users to employ. For example, large file transfers can be accomplished more efficiently by using secure file transfer or attachment management solutions. Real-time communications can be accomplished more efficiently by using an instant messaging solution or voice. Keeping track of project deliverables and milestones – which many people do today in e-mail – can be more efficiently accomplished through the use of a dedicated collaboration tool. Transmitting important company and policy information can be more efficiently performed through a company wiki instead of through e-mail.

While these points are pretty obvious, many resist using multiple capabilities because, in many cases, they involve multiple deployments from different vendors, different login credentials, etc. The goal, then, must be to split out what we do in e-mail today into multiple, more specialized capabilities that will allow more efficient communications, reduced storage requirements and lower costs. However, these disparate capabilities must be integrated into unified communications systems that will allow a single deployment, easier management for IT, single sign-on, etc.

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