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Email is Dead, Long Live Collaboration: Using Technology for Better Teamwork

Written by Jacob Moffitt | Find me on: LinkedIn

The last two weeks have really been a bit of a whirlwind for me, but they've also been pretty educational. I got the chance to go to Boston for Inbound, the annual marketing conference held by HubSpot, and when I returned, our international marketing team (Nikki from South Africa, Marjorie from Rotterdam) had come to Dallas in order to collectively chart our course in 2017. When it was all said and done, I had a fairly life-shattering revelation: we should really all just agree that email is a pretty bad way to communicate inside our own organizations.

Okay, so maybe email isn't really dead. I feel like day may never come, and that's alright. Email is still my go-to contact method for most people outside my office...provided I don't have their phone numbers. The hierarchy kind of goes like this: text, call, email. I know for a fact I'm not the only one who feels this way. I am far from it, and the numbers are starting to show that it's mostly us millenials who are leading the charge in calling for a better way to communicate.

What is Killing Email?

I feel, honestly, like this question is a no-brainer, but if you need an example, pull out your phone. Imagine you have a killer sales pitch for Elon Musk, and you have his cell phone number AND his email address. Now, sure, you might be able to elaborate on your awesome pitch a lot more in an email, but you've got probably 3 minutes to get Elon's attention, and he's not going to sit down and read your novel. So you could send a short email...but then you have to worry about being at the bottom of that guy's inbox.

You're going to call him, right? At the very least, you'd send him a text message and ask for a few minutes of his time. Email had its day in the sun as the method of choice for communicating, and the sun has long since set. We are roaring into the age of instantaneous feedback: we went to know what, when, why, how, and we want to know now.

It started with text messages, because a text is easier than a phone call or an email, but now we've got WhatsApp, Slack, Messenger, heck, even Twitter. When I was an undergrad (all of a year ago) our preferred method of communication was either texts or Tweets. We liked the instantaneous response, we liked the alacrity of the messages, and we liked to be able to pivot on the fly. And you should too.

"I'm Sorry, I Didn't Get the Email"

How many times have you heard that? How many times have you used it as an excuse? There's no reason you should be waiting for your co-workers, of all people, to sift through to the bottom of their inbox and finally respond to you. The world moves faster than that, and emails average about a six hour turnaround time for response, depending on who they're sent to, and who they're sent from. As of February 2015, your average office worker receives about 121 emails per day. When you're talking about your business, the turnaround time needs to be near instantaneous.

While text messages would be great, more and more teams are looking to messaging apps, like the ones we mentioned earlier, to fill the gap. Our little Inbound crew seemed to be mostly comprised of Apple iOS users, so iMessage was our communication method of choice, especially since it links directly with Giphy, but myself and another attendee both walked away with plans to introduce Slack to our company to improve response time. The ability to create project-based chatrooms, link with other collaboration apps, and the availability of clients for iOS, Mac, Windows, PC, and even a browser-based app all made it a no-brainer. If you're wondering what killed email, as far as workplace collaboration goes, look no further than Slack and its ilk.

Collaboration Aids Efficiency, But Is Sometimes Not Efficient Enough Itself

Decisions can get made fast when teams can work together, so it goes to figure that teams that can work together more efficiently can make decisions faster. More decisions made, with better data, leads to better results (presumably) and a much lower "mass" to shift momentum when the time comes. That was why email was great. It gave us all a way to communicate directly from our desktops, laptops, and then Blackberries and iPhones...but things are speeding up.

The saying used to be "I survived another meeting that could have been an email," but I suspect that soon it will be more along the lines of "I just read an email that could have been a text message, and I could have handled this problem 3 hours ago." I know we have our diehards among us...people who just can't get on board with the instantaneousness of modern communication. That's fine. This blog really isn't for them.

But for those of us who prefer to sum up a punchline with a well-placed GIF, for those of us who try our hardest to pack all the wit and candor we can into 140 characters, for those of us who need to know now, and for those of us for whom ten minutes from now is too late to know...our time is coming. Billions of text messages zinging over our heads right at this moment say that exact thing. It won't be long until we're burying email and getting on with our lives.

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Topics: Corporate Technology , BYOD , problem solving , collaboration

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