More Collaboration Apps, More Email?


More Collaboration Apps, More Email?

The use of enterprise collaboration apps is on the rise in businesses across North America, finds our recent report. And collaboration apps are no longer a nice to have; the vast majority of respondents consider them essential to their business’s ability to compete effectively. IT decision makers are adopting collaboration apps to increase productivity and drive growth in an organization. 

Yet despite the rapid adoption and perceived benefits of collaboration tools, nearly 60% of IT decision makers surveyed report that employee use of email has increased. And it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. According to a report by The Radicati Group Inc., the number of business emails sent and received every day is expected to rise at an annual average rate of 3% over the next two years, reaching over 246 billion by the end of 2019.

Email on the Rise

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that email is still on the rise. It’s universal and agnostic, making it easy to communicate with anyone, internally and externally. As the lowest common denominator, email is one application that doesn’t face one of the biggest complaints about enterprise collaboration apps: that not everyone uses them. 

Over one-third of survey respondents report that the biggest gripe their employees have about collaboration apps is that not everybody uses them. Another 10% hear employees grumble about having duplicate apps for the same tasks, and 8% hear complaints about too many collaboration tools. At least with email, you know you can reach someone regardless of which email service provider they use, and you only have to use one tool to do it.

Another challenge with many collaboration apps - particularly chat apps - is that they lack a defined organizational structure, and don’t provide an easy and effective way for employees to store and retrieve collaborative work files. Given the lack of structure of many collaboration apps, email becomes a fallback for managing work. The inbox becomes a task list. Documents are stored in email attachments for reference. Projects are managed through email, with teams sending spreadsheets back and forth in an attempt to track progress. 

The Black Hole of Email

While email does have some organizational benefits, it’s a terrible way to manage work. Why? Email is disconnected from the work happening across the organization, and often results in siloed information that can’t be accessed by everyone involved with a project or process. 

A report by Forrester finds that the interruption-driven activities surrounding email reduce the time spent on actual task activities to a mere 18%. Teams waste a lot of time sharing and searching for information and attachments in email, because email doesn’t capture conversations in the context of the work that’s happening. 

An Antidote to Email Disruptions

Organizations need a complementary suite of collaboration tools to address the different ways we move work forward. Of the organizations surveyed, 46% use six or more collaboration apps spread across a range of categories. There are five major categories of enterprise collaboration tools that - when full and effectively deployed - enable organizations to fully realize the positive impact of collaborative work:

  • Store & Sync: Applications that enable users to organize, access, secure, and share files. (Think Box, Dropbox)
  • Create: Applications that aid in the creation of content or digital assets, often shared, sometimes co-authored. (Think Quip, Google Docs, Evernote)
  • Reference: Applications that create structured websites that people reference for knowledge, instruction and navigation. (Think: SharePoint, Confluence)
  • Communicate: Applications that facilitate text, voice, and video from one person or group to another, often feed-based and searchable. (Think Slack, Skype for Business)
  • Manage: Applications that enable visibility, action, status, and automation for projects, programs, and processes. (Think JIRA, Smartsheet)

While each of the enterprise collaboration categories help support the daily workings of a business, the manage category is the key to decreasing unproductive time spent in email and giving workers more time to spend on getting work done. Collaborative work management solutions provide context to conversations and information, so that workers can find the information they need (including information from conversations with other collaborators) to get work done. 

Organizations need to think strategically about how they empower their employees to use all of the tools in their toolbox to maintain a competitive advantage. Of the leaders surveyed, 71% say that their company already has a defined collaboration strategy in place. 

A comprehensive strategy for enterprise collaboration apps can prevent email from being used as a catchall for things that chat apps won’t address. Both email and chat fall under the communication category and aren’t great for creating content, storing files, or managing projects and processes. A strategy that recognizes the strengths and usage of applications in each category can help companies see incremental value across their organizations.


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