• United States

Why e-mail won’t go to all workers

Dec 04, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Some workers just don’t need e-mail

Most corporate e-mail users work behind a desk for a substantial part of their workday. However, plenty of folks who work for a living do so behind a steering wheel, a retail counter, a milling machine or an assembly line. Most of these workers don’t have e-mail access at this time. Will they ever?

In a recent study on messaging, we found that only about 10% of organizations have extended their messaging system to kiosks and shared PCs, the primary mechanism for providing e-mail to non-traditional e-mail users. Further, only a minority of organizations very likely or definitely will offer e-mail access through kiosks in the future.

Here are two reasons why I believe provision of e-mail access to non-traditional workers will grow only slowly over the next several years:

1. The jobs of traditional e-mail users are typically focused on sending and receiving information, an application for which e-mail is extremely well suited. The jobs of people who work behind retail counters or in a warehouse are not as information-oriented. Although non-traditional e-mail users certainly send and receive information, these users typically just don’t send and receive as much information as traditional e-mail users. Because there is less of a need for non-traditional users to have e-mail, justifying the expense of providing it to them is simply more difficult, particularly when there are many competing – and often more compelling – messaging demands, such as spam control or instant messaging.

2. Current e-mail users tend to be paid on a salaried basis, while a large percentage of non-traditional e-mail users are paid hourly. As a result, if a non-traditional e-mail user is paid $30 per hour and sends and receives e-mail for 15 minutes each day, his or her employer is paying that employee nearly $2,000 every year to check e-mail, not counting the cost of the infrastructure necessary to provide that capability. Clearly, employers pay traditional e-mail users to send and receive e-mail, as well, but the cost of doing so is much less obvious.

That said, providing messaging capabilities to non-traditional users certainly has important business benefits – such as reducing the cost of printing and distributing documents to employees, verifying if an employee has read a corporate policy, scheduling, and so forth. I believe that the provision of messaging to non-traditional workers will certainly increase, although the growth will be relatively slow and will require much greater justification than many other initiatives competing for a limited pool of IT dollars.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please drop me a line at