Game Over: Collaboration Software Will Dominate Email

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I’m not usually one to make big predictions, but I am feeling opinionated today.

 
I recently had the pleasure of working with a client that is effectively using social collaboration on their projects.  They happen to use Jive, although I believe other tools could be just as effective at accomplishing the same results.  For those of you who have never seen Jive, it is a lot like Facebook at its core.  People post topics or documents and comment on them.  We used it throughout the project to provide updates, gather ideas and gain feedback on deliverables.  It also has various other features like events, blogs, polls, etc.
 
Here’s what I liked about using this method of collaboration versus our typical ways of working:
 
1.   Better results. During our assessment interviews, we usually provide updates for our primary client via email or office drop-ins, but the rest of the leadership team gets the findings and hypothesis recommendations at the end of the assessment phase when we present our report.    With Jive, we posted at least daily updates on key findings from interviews.  This started some great conversations that helped clarify points that were made and helped us form hypotheses together.  Additionally, some of the feedback was acted on by our clients immediately.  
 
2.   Increased productivity.  Usually, if I’m away from work for a day or two, it is very challenging to follow all the conversations that have happened over email.  Actually, it is a challenge to follow all the conversations that happen over email even if I’m sitting at my email!  With this collaboration software, I was very easily able to come in after 48 hours and quickly digest all the comments made to previous conversations as well as new conversations.  Some of my colleagues who were involved more on the fringes appreciated this even more because they could keep a pulse on what was going on with a quick scan of the feed and then dive back in when we needed them to re-engage.
 
3.   Less wasted effort.  Usually, we sync up with our clients in meetings or phone calls.  Ideally, we meet every few days to review what we are working on so that we can adjust our project efforts as external factors change.  With the collaboration software, we were really in sync with executive direction and had minimal duplicated or wasted efforts.  For example, one Sunday afternoon, I was getting ready to spend a couple of hours on a deliverable.  I checked Jive first and found that my client had posted some thoughts that would change the approach/emphasis on that deliverable.  Instead of working on that deliverable, we conversed over Jive about the topic and agreed to get together in person that next morning.
 
I would love to work with all my clients this way, but I do think this particular client is a little ahead of the game, especially for a typical IT organization.  It takes strong leadership to make the shift from email to collaboration tools.  People are very attached to email as their standard way of working and don’t yet trust these tools, still thinking email is safer for ensuring responses and more secure for expressing thoughts.  
 
To be frank, we haven’t figured this out at Thought Ensemble yet, despite multiple experiments with Yammer, Chatter and Sharepoint.  We are still small enough that we tend to carry on most important conversations over text message and in meetings.  One of my secret goals is that we’ll improve our already awesome thought sharing and ensemble working this year with one of these tools.  I guess it is not so secret anymore!
 
But, even if most companies aren’t ready quite yet, I’m “calling” it: It is game over for email.  It isn’t effective.  People are becoming increasingly frustrated and will welcome a better way.  We’ve seen it happen with people’s personal conversations: people across generations engage in conversations and messaging on Facebook, but don’t check their personal email. 
 
2016 is going to be the tipping point for social collaboration in the enterprise.  Do you want to be ahead or behind the curve?