Email: A Lonely Medium for Communication

Back in November 2011, Mark Zuckerberg announced: “Email is dead.” While to me, that sounds a little harsh, I certainly agree with the root of his sentiment as it pertains to internal email communication in the workplace. If the goal is for employees to communicate with each other in an efficient manner, email is clearly not the right medium. Consider how email works: After receiving a series of messages you click each one individually to read it. You then determine if it is the most up to date message in the thread. From there, you can either take action on the email or click out of it and forget it. The afterlife of an email is either in the trash or in your inbox for only your eyes to see. Herein lies the problem with email – it is cumbersome and overwhelming. For this reason, our company made the choice to ban all internal emails. About six months ago, we decided we would only use Salesforce.com Chatter for virtual internal communication, and we haven’t looked back. We have found that Chatter accommodates our proactive approach to communication and agile methodology more easily. It also enhances the flow of communication to move throughout the company in a more relevant and less arduous manner. This proactive communication in the office allows for enormous gains in three key areas of the business: productivity, transparency and collaboration.

  1. Productivity: Increasing individual, team and company-wide productivity is almost always the number one goal I hear when speaking with clients about their business process optimization. I often share with clients the high-impact results of V2’s transition to Chatter. Not only have I reduced the number of steps I need to take to access our team’s internal information, but also I have designated my email inbox to be entirely client-facing. I know that if an email pops-up in my inbox, it is from a client, and is inherently of high importance. Essentially, the volume of data I receive on a daily basis is the same, but Chatter has optimized the way I sort through, prioritize and control information allowing me to make better decisions, more quickly.
     
  2. Transparency: Our larger clients often tell us that one of the biggest hurdles they face is fostering effective communication and sharing of data between employees, management and executives. I have come to realize one of the fundamental problems with email is that conversations happen “behind closed doors”, therefore diminishing the benefit of open, proactive communication. Chatter, on the other hand, gives organizations the option (based on very tailorable security settings) to openly share Comments creating an ambient awareness or knowledge for others who weren’t necessarily targeted in the message. Case and point: It is not uncommon for our company’s president to unexpectedly follow up on a Chatter Comment and provide support, insight, praise or mentoring to individual team members. Creating a workplace environment where proactive communication is encouraged and knowledge is made easily available should be a priority for small, mid-sized and larger organizations alike. It has been my experience that having this kind of transparency builds trust among colleagues and ultimately better working relationships.
     
  3. Collaboration: Another challenge faced by our clients is managing both internal and external projects effectively. Regardless of which team within an organization drives a project (i.e. PMO, Sales, Marketing, Support, IT), it is not uncommon that important and relevant data is stored in disparate and siloed locations including email inboxes and individuals’ heads. Chatter provides an open forum to share information, gather feedback or learn how a colleague was able to overcome a similar project hurdle in the past. Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments to leverage Chatter for more effective project management is the ability to post a comment or share an attachment against a particular Project, Account, Contact or other record in the database – a dramatically different approach in comparison to a standalone chat message or email.

So while email might not be dead, it is, in my humble opinion pretty lonely. Many of our clients, both large and small, are already discovering the critical role which an integrated, platform-based communication tool like Chatter will play in executing an effective social enterprise strategy. Email will continue to serve as a sufficient vehicle for pointed, external communication in day-to-day operations. However, if Salesforce.com has its way, more leading-edge companies will increasingly leverage Chatter Customer Groups for various forms of client-oriented communications. Thanks to Salesforce.com, my dream of having a manageable inbox may be on the horizon – cheers to that! Share your thoughts and leave a comment below on whether you think Chatter is a helpful tool or how you use it to your advantage.