Social collaboration tools are poised to increase enterprise productivity if implemented in such a way as to prevent separate silos.
Will social media spell the end of e-mail in the enterprise? It's
certainly not the first time this question has been posed, if you
substitute groupware, wiki or Intranet for social media. E-mail-like
the mainframe and Windows XP-likely has a long life ahead of it. But
it's not an irrelevant question this time around.
A study commissioned by Skype and conducted by Incites Research showed
that e-mail usage was set to decline slightly in 2011, although the
same study showed that e-mail was one of the two indispensable
communication methods. More than 90 percent of people in the workplace
use e-mail, compared to just under 40 percent of workers who use social media
The better way to ask the question, however, is, "Will social media tools open a
new wave of user productivity?" I pose the question this way to suggest
that IT managers should be looking today at how social media tools
ranging from Salesforce.com Chatter to Socialcast or Socialtext can
help set the stage for a productivity boost in their enterprises.
At eWEEK, we've covered social media tools for the last couple of
years. In those examinations we looked at the pros and cons of what was
then an emerging technology. What's changed in the intervening time is
the wildfire spread of social media adoption among consumers. The
growth of Facebook and even Twitter among a growing number of workers
is joining a number of other trends that shake up traditional IT
control over how we work. Bring your own device, a tsunami of mobile
device models and the upheaval in mobile computing operating systems
are all co-factors that are forcing IT to accommodate new ways of
While skirting the constraints of e-mail can be exciting, it's also clear
that most knowledge workers don't want another communication stream on
the desktop. Adoption of social media tools isn't just a matter
of training users to implement a new tool. Users want to know that the effort
they put into a social media platform is going to immediately provide
some payoff. Being marooned on a social media island is a real threat
that users want to avoid.
And e-mail sets a very high performance and reliability bar against
which any other communication tool is measured. One reason e-mail chains
get wackily out of control is because there is nothing quite so good at
covering your hindmost parts as an e-mail. And almost every business
circumstance has a widely known and well understood e-mail work flow.
Even e-mail's biggest problems-spam and volume-are fenced in with
preventative tools and established best practice guidelines.
When networks were unreliable, store-and-forward tools modeled on the
physical postal system were a huge step forward in aiding business
communication. These limitations no longer apply. The benefits for
breaking out of the e-mail silo are real for those organizations that
can make the jump. Transparent, controlled, secure collaboration tools
are available today. An e-mail-only communication stream imposes a
curtain that technology today can draw back.
Reliable networks, socially savvy users and an unforgiving economy have
all set the stage for an evolution in business communication. IT
managers should lead the way in outfitting organizations with the
collaborative tools that both speed up and increase the value of