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What’s wrong with email anyhow?


A common promise of many (though not all) collaboration vendors of which BCSocial is proudly one, is that we will liberate you from email. We claim to hold the keys to this self-imposed prison and if only you would use our platform you would emerge blinking into the sunlight. This sounds great, but only if you accept that there is something wrong with email in the first place. Is there?

email and BCSocial

First of all let’s list the good things about email. It’s usually accessible everywhere you go. It’s simple to use. It’s ubiquitous and client-neutral (you needn’t care if the recipient is on gmail, Hotmail, yahoo, corporate network). You can send attachments. In other words there are minimal barriers to simple asynchronous communication. These simple attributes go to explain why there are billions of users across the world.

So where does it start to break down?

Email is perfect for a simple one-to-one asynchronous communication. But that is not what we use it for. Humans being equal parts lazy and creative have taken the poor old email protocol and abused it royally. We send emails to lots of people. We copy them in when we’re not sure what their role in this communication is. We add attachments.\

We very quickly develop Byzantine communications with hundreds of emails and dozens of documents in a single thread. We have no clue about what the latest version of anything is, which email relates to which document and even if we could sort it out we can’t because every day a few hundred new ones come in.

“My inbox has gone from 10,000 to 40 using BCSocial":  genuine quote from a BCSocial customer. 

If we actually analyse what’s going on in those emails a few patterns emerge. According to Atos Origin [http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2012/dec/17/ban-staff-email-halton-housing-trust] in any medium to large organization 40% of the working week is spent dealing with internal emails.

In short you are speaking regularly to the same groups of people. You might even have groups set up in email to deal with it – congratulations! Buy why trap the communication in email? It’s not what it’s for.

Keeping that converation in emial means that you are constantly interrupted as new email comes in. You are constantly switching context from group to group as they email land in no order. You are not filing document versions well or else you are constantly switching out to Sharepoint or Dropbox ‘click here to see the document’. As a recipe for inefficient working and not getting things done, it’s hard to beat.

What collaboration platforms, good ones anyway, offer is the ability to pull regular group or project conversation out of email and into a platform where the conversations, documents, tasks etc are organised into sensible workspaces.

Working by interruption

What’s that? You like working by interruption?

Well you can always set an alert to your mail inbox when there is an update but we’re not recommending it in the long term - maybe while you transition.

But what’s the net gain of switching?

You’ve been working this way for years and never done you any harm?

Well the one finite resource each of us has to manage is our time. No matter who you are you have the same amount of hours in a week. As knowledge workers, the obligation is upon us to spend that finite amount of time as efficiently as we can. You can work longer hours, learn to type faster, spend more time on filing structures, develop more ‘tricks’ for dealing with email. None of these solutions seem particularly smart though do they?

The smart choice is to look again and look hard at just how you work, how the teams you work with operate and how your company works and see whether – under the spotlight of proper examination - they truly make sense? Are you on a treadmill running faster or is it time to try and find a better way of working with colleagues? And by the way – email does not disappear. We will look next time about how they co-exist and where it makes sense to use one and the other.

You can go to www.bcsocial.com to try out a free 30-day no-obligation trial to see if there is a world beyond email.


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