Younger workers and the demise of e-mail

* Will instant messaging, social networking and other real-time communications tools be the demise of e-mail?

We've heard for some time that young people don't use e-mail, but instead use Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging and other social networking and real-time communications tools, and that they just don't use e-mail anymore. Further, we're told that young people entering the workforce just won't use e-mail, and that real-time communications will become the workplace norm as a result.

Is that true?

I’ll take both positions. Yes, real-time communications and social networking-like tools, in part due to pressure from younger workers, will replace e-mail as the primary mode of communication in the workplace. And no, e-mail will continue to be the dominant mode of communications for most workers in the vast majority of organizations. I think I’m right on both.

In the near term – over the next five years or so – e-mail will continue to dominate workplace communications. Most information workers have become accustomed to e-mail, workflow processes are built around it, corporate culture has been shaped by it, and significant investments have been made in it. Plus, even the latest generations of communications servers, exemplified by the latest versions of Exchange, Notes Domino, GroupWise, etc., all focus on e-mail as the most important functionality provided in the platforms.

Over the next five years and beyond, however, we will see continued integration of real-time communications as part of unified communications suites, exemplified by the solutions listed above and then some. The result will be that e-mail will continue to be a primary part of the functionality of these solutions, but so will real time communications.

So I believe that the continued adoption of unified communications will, in essence, make moot the impact of younger workers forcing a change in communications modes in the workplace. A younger worker that sits in front of a unified communications interface may opt for a real-time mode of communication, while an older worker raised on e-mail may use that functionality instead. The result, however, is fundamentally no change in what most organizations will choose to deploy. (Compare Unified Communications products)

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