The InfoWorld blog points to a recent survey showing that corporate email is becoming more expensive than ever. The survey, conducted by Osterman Research, looked at just over 100 enterprises with an average of 6,636 email users and found that a majority are concerned about the expense associated with migrating to Microsoft Exchange 2007. The survey showed that organizations face steep costs to migrate to the new email server, and, “messaging storage growth is a serious or very serious problem.” Regarding messaging storage growth, the problem people think they’re facing is having enough available storage space for archives of message, but I think the bigger problem is that all those stored messages aren’t doing much good because people can’t do much with them. Email is not an archival tool for information, which makes accessing and reusing that information difficult.
The survey was commissioned by a Linux-based competitor to Exchange, so it might be construed as biased, but the bigger issue here is that organizations have to look at how email is being used, and what activities would be better served by other tools, like wikis and blogs. Email has become a crutch in business communications because it’s being stretched far beyond its intended use as a communications tool. Organizations are trying to use it to collaborate and it was never designed for this, so it makes a very poor collaboration tool.
If you and I were working together on a document, there are a lot of steps in between when I work on the document itself, and when you work on it. To send it to you, I’d have to create an email, attach the document, and send it to you. Once you receive it, you’d have to download the attachment (insert worry about viruses here), open it (let’s hope you have the right software to do so!), and finally you can edit it. That may not seem like much, but imagine doing that every time we pass the document back and forth.
And, what if I send you the document, then get a great idea for something to add. Should I wait until you’ve had a chance to edit it and send it back, or do I add my new content and send it again? If I do the latter, it open up the possibility that you might edit the wrong copy of the document, and my content either gets lost in the process, or has to be added back later. This is why email isn’t a good collaboration tool, and using a wiki can return email to it’s proper use, such as when I send you a message to tell you the wiki page with our document is ready for your input. Then, if I have a great idea I can add it to the wiki page, which ensures you’ll see it when you look at that same wiki page.

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