Email’s slow death – set to be replaced by social networking

11 Nov 2010

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By 2014, email will be surpassed by social networking as the dominant form of communication in the business world, Gartner has predicted.

Greater availability of social-networking services, coupled with changing demographics and work styles, will lead 20pc of employees to use social networks as their business communications’ hub by 2014, the analyst said.

Analysts said this is one of a wide range of capabilities that have emerged in communications, social web and mobile, enabling richer interactions among people and expanding collaboration to a broader level.

“In the past, organisations supported collaboration through email and highly structured applications only,” said Monica Basso, research vice-president at Gartner.

“Today, social paradigms are converging with email, instant messaging (IM) and presence, creating new collaboration styles.

“However, a truly collaborative, effective and efficient workplace will not arise until organisations make these capabilities widely available and users become more comfortable with them. Technology is only an enabler; culture is a must for success,” Basso said.

‘Cloud’ sourcing

While microblogging on platforms like Twitter and Facebook are reshaping enterprise communications, business communications are evolving. Newer employees will enter the workforce with a predisposition to communicate via a social network, but they will use email in parallel — optimising the business need with the communication modality.

“The rigid distinction between email and social networks will erode,” Basso said. “Email will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering, while social networks will develop richer email capabilities.”

Vendors such as Microsoft and IBM will add links to internal and external social networks from within e-mail clients and servers, making services such as contacts, calendars and tasks shareable across email and social networks.

By 2012, Gartner said contact lists, calendars and messaging clients in any smartphones will be social-enabled applications.

Collaboration is slowly moving to the cloud, and Gartner analysts expect to see steep growth rates for sales of premises- and cloud-based social-networking services.

Organisations will deploy hybrid models where some services live on premises and some are in the cloud. Gartner predicts the percentage of email accounts on cloud services will grow to 10pc by year-end 2012, up 7pc from 2009.

Mobile convergence

From a vendor’s perspective, the market is consolidating around Microsoft and Research In Motion (RIM), the two market leaders. Gartner forecasts that by 2012, RIM and Microsoft will own 80pc of the enterprise wireless email software market.

Communications and collaboration are critical to business success, and any organisation should invest in these areas to pursue innovative organisational and work-style change. “Even in an economic downturn, innovation is a must for any organisation to prepare for recovery and further change,” said Basso.

“The reality is that mobile collaboration will increase for all categories of workers, and organisations can either take the lead, or be led by their users,” she said.

“The most progressive organisations won’t be afraid to explore the innovative communications and collaboration models enabled by new devices and social services allow their employees to generate innovative ideas by experimenting with them.”

Basso provided an example of this collaboration by highlighting Ocè’s use of Yammer. In this situation, employees spontaneously adopted the enterprise microblogging service that is now helping capture and spread knowledge, accelerate decision making, improve customer responsiveness and support continuous learning.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com