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5/21/2008
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The Killer App That Is Killing Us

Email changed the world for business and consumer alike. Imagine it; a cheap and easy way to communicate with each other without using voicemail, fax, or the post office. While a boon for business communication, email has significant flaws that we continue to live with today. So, whats wrong with email?

  • Limited ways to prioritize what deserves reading or replying can be overwhelming
  • Search on most email clients is terrible cant find what you need
  • Knowledge in emails limited to people participating directly no good for future team members
  • Used to collaborate something it was never intended or designed to do

There are ways dodge these problems, but they require installing additional tools and using clever processes. This is fine for people with the time and knowledge, but most dont have either.

The unfortunate truth is email is the lowest common denominator for business communication, and it isnt likely to go away anytime soon. You would be hard pressed to name any mid-sized to large business or enterprise that doesnt significantly rely on email. Other forms of communication are beginning to emerge like RSS, context specific messaging systems like LinkedIn or Facebook, text messages, Twitter, etc.. However, email is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

So what do you do about it? For one, come to grips with this fact and build product and process to take advantage of it. For example, one of our design assumptions is what we build must be accessible through email. We have customers who rely on email and always will. We prefer they come directly to the application, but a percentage of them wont so we need to give them the tools to participate anyway.

From a process perspective, you need to take the information locked in emails and do something with the emails that contain meaningful information for the whole group. The few hours this exercise/process costs you on a regular basis will pay meaningful dividends in the future. There is really good stuff in emails. Unfortunately, it takes work to identify the good stuff, save it for others, and find it when you need it. How do you and your company use email these days? What works and what doesnt?

Guest post from Jason RothbartJason's blog: blog.groupswim.com

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