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You can’t kill email

TechCrunch TechCrunch 28/06/2016 Jonathan Levine

New technology is emerging at ever-increasing speeds, transforming how we communicate, collaborate and manage our day-to-day responsibilities. As soon as we get a strong grasp on the latest workplace technology, an even newer solution surfaces.

This trend is especially evident in communications technology. Among the many recent entries are so-called “email killers,” which aim to replace a form of communication to which all of us have grown accustomed. The makers of these new collaboration tools call email a “legacy” technology — unwarrantedly trying to tarnish its image. But, in fact, all of us rely on email heavily throughout the work week. Contrary to what is often suggested in the press, email usage is still very much on the rise. Users trust it, are familiar with it and leverage it all day, every day, in their business and personal lives.

Radicati’s most recent Email Statistics Report estimates that by 2019, the number of worldwide email users will exceed 2.9 billion — that’s up 10 percent from 2015. Additionally, the number of business emails sent and received per user per day is also projected to increase, suggesting global email will rise 14 percent over the same period.

The truth is our use of email is only increasing, because the way we use it is evolving to help us better manage the everyday to-do lists in our work and personal lives. Email is still an integral part of the way we communicate today, and the reasons are many.

Ironically, so-called “email killers” rely on email

New communication and collaboration tools flooding the market claim they’ve built a better mousetrap. Slack, for example, has been praised for being able to significantly reduce email volume. While tools like Slack work well for small businesses and startups, this model often becomes unsustainable when companies scale, potentially subjecting the whole company to tens of thousands of alerts a day. Regardless, these new tools aren’t driving users away from email. In fact, they are relying on it.

The reality is that email has unique properties that no other new technology possesses.

Even Salesforce, which tried to replace email in the sales process, eventually wound up having to develop Outlook plug-ins. Slack will send push notifications for activity that occurs while offline, but it uses email to notify users of mentions and direct messages.

File storage and backup solutions, such as Box, will do the same when a new file has been shared. If a user forgets his or her password for any of these platforms, a reset link is typically sent via email. And while public communication tools and social media platforms like Twitter have integrated direct messaging features in an effort to eliminate the need for email, users find it difficult to facilitate any kind of external contact without an initial email introduction.

Having access to a variety of tools designed for specific tasks — like file sharing — improves the way we collaborate, but email still serves as communication’s core. In spite of what some may think, email is not being killed off by these other technologies.

Email makes organization out of chaos

As the need for effective communication and collaboration becomes increasingly important to everyday workflow, email is only getting smarter, evolving and adapting to the different ways we use and need it. Searching across emails is easy. Using email to keep track of workflow is straightforward. Both are vital to business operations.

There also are a variety of tools and solutions that have been built on top of email to help users manage and direct what used to be just chronological workflow. For instance, one of the common grievances of email is the significant amount of spam and junk mail users need to sort. To address this issue, email now has automated capabilities to filter through inbound messages.

According to Harvard Business Review, the average user receives approximately 11,680 emails per year. What users don’t realize is that out of those 11,680 messages, 74 percent is junk mail that is never seen or noticed because it is automatically filtered into spam or junk email folders. Of the email messages that actually make it to the inbox, only 8 percent are promotional offers, phishing scams or malware. This has been made possible thanks to the evolution of email and its filtering tools.

As a means to keep inboxes from being cluttered, Microsoft Outlook, for example, offers the option to create rules so that messages are automatically categorized and filed into the appropriate buckets or folders, based on the user’s preference. Similarly, Inbox by Gmail and Outlook’s Clutter feature can help filter low-priority email by tracking the emails that are read and ignored, adapting to user preferences and reserving the user’s time for only the most important messages.

Email can be used for more than just emails

Email is evolving to become an efficient tool that can perform the various tasks and business processes needed in the workplace. In addition to being used as a communication tool, email is relied on for marketing tactics to share promotions and information with prospects, customers and vendors, as well as for simple daily tasks, such as to-do lists and reminders.

Going beyond more traditional uses for email, the platform has become an alternative strategy for storage and backup because it has virtually limitless capacity. Employees need to be able to access projects from multiple devices and multiple locations. If you don’t have a flash drive handy, no problem! You can simply email yourself the file or pull it up from a previous thread, giving you access, whether it’s from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

In spite of what some may think, email is not being killed off.

Additionally, email is the most trusted, reliable source for record keeping in the workplace, perhaps because it has been around for so long. It’s the first thing a company gives you upon starting in their employ. From there, it becomes the tool in which most of our daily tasks and business transactions are recorded, therefore storing sensitive and valuable information.

With increasing regulatory scrutiny and stringent laws surrounding electronic content, organizations of all sizes and industries must be more cognizant about the way they manage, store and archive email messages. The U.S. government considers its email messages to be official government records because these messages provide evidence and information around all business transactions.

Regulated businesses may be required to keep a former employee’s inbox active for as long as seven years after they leave the company, or risk fines and lawsuits. And even without legal requirements, given that the average turnover in businesses is 20 percent, maintaining searchable access to previous materials and intellectual property is critical to business continuity.

Robust and proven email archiving technology can solve these challenges in a way that newer technologies can’t. Email archiving systems provide searchable access to historical records, limiting e-discovery costs and avoiding potential fines should a company be wrapped up in litigation.

Email is the open standard for communication

While email is a reliable protocol, it isn’t owned by any one company, and its existence isn’t tied to a single provider. Email is inexpensive, only requiring an internet connection. There is a real risk associated with embracing proprietary communication tools: If Slack or Dropbox went out of business tomorrow, what would happen to the records residing in that system? Open email standards like SMTP, and the robust email marketplace, provides assurance that makes email a safe bet for years to come.

The reality is that email has unique properties that no other new technology possesses — it’s asynchronous, reliable, multimedia and a multi-device tool. Because email is the only application that can do all of these things, and has been for such a long period of time, it remains the infrastructure foundation for collaboration that all new communications tools eventually tie back to. Email is not dead or dying; in fact, it’s still very much alive.

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