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Integrated messaging goes way beyond simple e-mail

Opinion
Jul 06, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Integrated messaging could dramatically improve communications

E-mail is a great communications medium, but it has significant limitations.

For example, as I write this, I’m receiving e-mail that was held up about 19 hours because of temporary mail server problems with my provider.

Another limitation: If you send an e-mail message on a controversial issue, it’s almost impossible to ensure that what is interpreted will exactly match what you meant because it’s so difficult to completely and accurately convey thoughts to text.

Consequently, the seamless integration of e-mail, instant messaging (IM), video, voice and Web conferencing should be a high priority for organizations of all sizes, especially those that depend heavily on e-mail for more complex communications, particularly with potential customers.

From a purely technical standpoint, an integrated, collaborative environment would allow features and gradations of communications that e-mail alone cannot offer. For example, if I send you a message that requires a rapid response, e-mail is inadequate because the e-mail might not get to you for several hours, or it might be trapped by a spam filter.

The addition of IM solves that problem because its presence capability allows me to ensure that you received my e-mail message in real time. The addition of voice enhances that communication still further by providing social cues that text-based communications alone cannot provide. Adding video to the communications mix adds even more capabilities, since facial expressions can even better convey thoughts and ideas.

On the downside, integrated communications carries with it a number of problems. VoIP and video conversations could add dramatically to storage requirements, something that administrators won’t exactly relish given the already significant increases in storage requirements over the past couple of years with e-mail alone. Bandwidth requirements could increase dramatically. Archiving of voice and video content won’t be easy and could create a new set of problems, particularly for organizations in heavily regulated industries. Further, training and help desk costs may increase because of the added capabilities offered to users.

That said, I believe that integrated collaborative tools will be important additions to traditional e-mail infrastructures over the next two years. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on how the addition of collaboration tools like voice, video and Web conferencing would be useful for your organization, as well as the problems they would cause for you. Please drop me a line at mailto:michael@ostermanresearch.com