7 Reasons to Replace Email with Collaboration Software

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Back in 2011 I wrote a blog post about how social networking software is taking over email as the primary means for communication. This is a follow up post that explains why you should now, finally, replace or at least try to reduce how you use email in your business.

In years past, most business professionals would come into the office and check their emails first thing in the morning before starting the day.

However, with the rise of social networks, collaborative tools, and mobile devices, communication has changed.

Today, email is phasing out and social collaborative software is taking its place.

Internal social networking software has been replacing email for business communication over years. Whether employees are logging into a community intranet and getting up to speed on the latest conversations, or adding events and meetings to a shared calendar, they are spending more and more time with shared social components outside of their email inboxes.

If you haven’t replaced or augmented email with a team collaboration software, here are seven reasons why you should today:

1. You will save tremendous amounts of time.

Most business professionals spend way too much time checking email. They are so inundated with email that their inboxes are overflowing. When you log into social collaboration software, you have access to all the updates for your company and projects at one time. You are able to prioritize and respond to what is most urgent immediately.

The average corporate user spends about 1/4 of the workday answering and sending email according to McKinsey’s 2012 Social Economy report.

Time spent using email


As high as 25% to 30% of all time spent on email could be saved if the main channel for business communication in a company was moved over to a social platform, according to McKinsey (McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012).

2. You will see an increase in productivity.

The first email was sent in 1971. Today, over 4.2 billion people use email to communicate, but email has become a productivity killer. Email is almost always open on a person’s workstation, distracting them and reducing productivity significantly. Reducing time spent on email (both sending and receiving) can raise productivity.

For example, The French company Atos removed email altogether from its 74,000+ team and improved productivity immediately. Companies that use social software empower their employees and are able to connect more quickly with staff, partners, and customers. They become more agile and work smarter by having unified communications, easy access to documents, and speeding up workflow. Social software drives productivity within an enterprise, thereby increasing a company’s competitive advantage.

When you’re using social collaboration software, you use email more as a notification center.

replace email with online collaboration tools

You receive emails informing you that a new conversation is occurring on the social network, with a link to join and participate.

Have a question for a group? Or maybe the question you have has already been answered?

Instead of digging through your email, you can quickly find answers to important questions on your social collaboration network. You can create and contribute to a list of frequently asked questions that are easily accessible and organized. This helps reduce the volume of emails sent, especially on repetitive topics.

3. There will be less confusion.

Too often information gets lost in email because of forwarding, CCs and BCCs.

Understanding and relating to a whole thread of forwarded emails can be quite time-consuming as well. By eliminating email and instead having a common dashboard where all the information is shared at one time with just the right audience, online collaboration tools offer direct communication without the hassles and confusion of email.

Looking for a file attachment in one of those CCed emails? Avoid the frustration of burying your nose back in email when you can quickly search through your collaboration software to find, manage, and update documents and file attachments.

replace email with online collaboration tools

These files are more readily accessible and identified. Instead of being locked in an individual email account, these files are visible and can be shared quickly.

4. You will experience more meaningful collaboration.

When more than two people discuss or collaborate on a project, email quickly becomes ineffective.

Email is not built for collaboration. (Learn more in this blog post: Email is Broken. Why You Should Transition from the Inbox to Collaboration Software.) Sending edits to a document by email, for example, can be a poor use of time and also more prone to error and confusion. Having a shared document that multiple people can view at the same time is far more beneficial. Updates and notes can be added and viewed in one place and at the same time. This also offers people the ability to quickly gauge the progress on a project and make necessary decisions for next steps.

Online collaboration tools are more effective for working with others on a project than email.

In fact, Salesforce has reported that as high as 96% of CEOs have determined poor collaboration and communication as the primary causes for workplace failure.

As the workplace becomes increasingly global with outsourced solutions, using email as the primary chain of communication slows down the sharing of knowledge and can often lead to confusion and mistakes. Demand for faster solutions and quicker transfer of information is only increasing. Being able to adapt to these pressures, while offering a plaform for easy access and sharing, is imperative to prevent information silos and decreased productivity.

Grow Your Business with Collaboration Tools

5. Information will become more searchable.

With email, knowledge can quickly get stuck in the inbox.

Email is a closed system where the only person who can search through each account is the individual owner. The individual user can quickly become a bottleneck, preventing collaboration and progress. This prevents sharing and limits the speed and access of information necessary for a group.

With social collaboration software, you’ve got all your information available in one area. You can search through all your data quickly and easily. Everything becomes searchable by the people who you choose to have search privileges. In social collaborative software, all communication is usually written within a certain context and organized in such a way that it is easy to find.

replace email with online collaboration tools

A large amount of company information gets locked up in email. Email becomes an information silo and when a person leaves the company, this informaton can often be lost or disappear. This is detrimental to the business, which may have to invest new resources to locate or recreate the same information. Instead, it would be more useful to have a shared knowledge base.

6. You will find more efficient ways to communicate.

People are social, and collaboration software recognizes this. You can communicate in multiple ways, by using blogs, articles, wikis, comments and status updates … just like you do in social networks.

Social software enables you to reach a lot of new people simultaneously. It is great for sharing information to a large audience at one time. You can scale up your user list at any time without losing any functionality.

replace email with online collaboration tools

We live in the time of expanding social networks, where people are receiving news and updates via Twitter and Facebook in real-time. As high as 84% of young adults in the United States are connected to their friends and family throughout the day via their mobile devices. They are already familiar with many of the tools of social collaboration software and can adapt to a new platform very quickly. You can engage these members of your team effectively by communicating in different ways through your social collaboration software.

7. You will build trust with transparency.

Social collaboration software increases transparency, which in turn offers accountability and increases trust.

You can build awareness of your company throughout the organization effectively and efficiently through collaboration software. While email just “pushes” out information, collaboration software encourages a “push and pull” interaction … where you send specific messages to specific audiences and individual users can actively respond to messages as they see fit.

Social collaborative software offers enterprises the opportunity to communicate in multiple ways. Executives can share high-level concepts and privileged information to target groups, while other areas can be shared by all employees, fostering greater communication and connection.

Collaboration software includes different functionality ranging from microblogging and wikis, to instant messaging and discussion forums, to notifications and document sharing.

replace email with online collaboration tools

It can help people within an organization connect and communicate more effectively. Social collaboration software helps business professionals work both inside their organizations and outside, enabling them to integrate their internal and external communications more seamlessly.

Simple measures you can take for immediate improvement.

Reducing email usage internally can immediately improve productivity and efficiency. It also facilitates better communication.

International Power, a London-based company, discovered that a high volume of email was overwhelming their staff. At first, executives surmised that the email originated from external contacts but they were surprised to discover that email communication internally was also very high. The company decided to trim down, recognizing that emails were often unnecessary or even confusing. They decided to reduce email communication by top employees by 20% in four months.

In the early fall of 2013, the executive team enrolled in training to reduce email … and they did this through more effective decision-making … ranging from selecting emails more carefully to forward to team members and to limiting the number of recipients. They also replaced some communication by direct  communication in person or on the phone. Within three months, the entire email communication decreased by 54%.

Change started at the top and its effect rippled throughout the organization. The 73 employees reduced email by as much as 64%. The final result was an increased productivity of 7% overall or 10,400 hours.

You can put these steps into action right away:

  1. Show executives how to make deliberate choices in email usage (what to send, to whom, and when to forward).
  2. Direct executives to set a goal to reduce the volume of messages they send and include this goal in their overall performance goal.
  3. Direct staff to do the same.
  4. Regularly check in every week to review progress.

The growing nature of social business.

replace email

Social collaboration software offers the convenience of one platform with rich functionality and social access. At the 2010 Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit, Gartner, Inc. predicted that 20% of users will choose social networks for the majority of business communications and that companies would shift to working with internal social networks or use personal social networks to accomodate the growing social nature of business.

Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner, pointed out:

“While e-mail is already almost fully penetrated in the corporate space, we expect to see steep growth rates for sales of premises- and cloud-based social networking services.” (source)

His prediction, along with several other Gartner recommendations, have turned out to be true … as companies have embraced social networking as part of their business strategy and communications.

Among the tools most often requested in social software is microblogging. Microblogging enables employees to quickly connect with other staff and get feedback and answers.

In 2013, sales of tablets exceeded laptops and desktop computers. This trend has shown that mobile usage for consumers on the go is rapidly increasing and that more users are accessing information via cell phones and tablets. This in turn means that businesses will need to adapt and have more smartphone and tablet applications. These applications also must have a social component as most users are communicating frequently via social networks.

replace email with online collaboration tools

In fact, in some parts of the world, the first communications and experiences online will be via mobile devices, as wireless communications penetrates new markets in Africa, Asia and underdeveloped areas of the world.

Empowering people = better engagement.

People drive innovation within a company … and empowering them with tools that they can use easily and effectively helps them be more productive and also more engaged.

Collaboration software recognizes how people interact through instant messaging, notifications, status updates. It harnesses the power of cloud computing, data analytics, and popular features of social media networks so that people can communicate effectively within an organization.

By engaging your employees and offering them a solution that is easy to use, highly functional, and streamlines work communication, you can boost up productivity and engagement throughout your company and connect more effectively with your audience.

intranet software

Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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