You wake up, check email, get the car started, check email, get to work, and while you are waiting for your email application to load up on your desktop, you check email (on your phone), then you check email. Some studies (say, McKinsey’s Global Institute Report) argue that the average worker today spends about 28+ % of their time managing emails. The average worker also received about 147 email messages per day, and deletes about half of them.
There is no question that email today has become an extremely important part of our personal and professional lives. Try to live without your email for a week, and let me know how many times you almost pull your own hair out (lucky for me, I have no hair). Email has become a necessity. I would even argue that it has become a basic human right.
However, for a tool that is being used as much as it is email seems backwards and rudimentary in many ways. Have you ever spent hours using the horrible search that MS Outlook has to offer? or the text only search that other email programs have to offer, such as Mozilla Thunderbird. Not to mention the slightly better open and free platforms available like Gmail, or Yahoo email which trade privacy for slightly but not sufficiently better features. Shouldn’t email be more than just a collection of messages from people and from you. Of all the things that the tech. industry has created in the last few years, email is by far the most under-refined tool in the market, especially when you weigh in how much time we spend with it.
But, there is hope at the end (or perhaps the middle) of the tunnel. This year, we’re seeing a number of new applications geared towards making email more social. The category of products is called “social software” and it aims to transform not only email functionality, but how we communicate in the workplace – the most salient of which is probably IBM’s Verse, a social communication platform that combines email, super smart search capability, discussion and sharing capabilities, and a myriad of tools to allow for more efficient work, project, and discussion management.
I spent some time with Jeff Schick, General Manager of IBM’s Enterprise Social Solutions business group and asked him about whether IBM Verse is the real deal that we’ve all been looking for, or whether it’s the same old email applications with a better user experience.
“[IBM Verse] provides easy access to the people that are most important to you and enhances the level of access that you have to them. Your experience is a reflection of what you do. so it’s much more about focused interaction. It provides focus and removes clutter,” he says.
So this platform is not just about communication, it’s really about work behavior, which is what is really needed today much more than another email tool. He explains the exciting and fascinating capabilities that were added to Verse: capabilities such as being able to better measure work performance, enhanced analytics for the enterprise, and some very cool opportunities to integrate with artificial intelligence platforms such as IBM Watson.
But what’s best about this kind of social collaboration platform is really something very simply. IBM Verse allows you take any email, drag and drop, instantly creating a discussion forum for issues and problems that will likely require crowd-sourced solutions from fellow employees. Think Microsoft SharePoint on speed, attached to a rocket which is launched into space. That feature alone made me drool, and reminded me of times in my career where I had to go through hundreds of email communications, tons of meetings, and generally a big headache to crowd-source a project delivery or planning solution.
Schick summarizes those features with some golden words, “this is not [just] email, it’s a collaboration tool.”
There are other companies that are attempting to do just that, each with its own view on how simple communication can be transformed into true social collaboration applications. They all have their merits and their disadvantages, but I can only say that the trend will continue and that we’re on the verge of a true transformation in the way we communicate, share, and collaborate at work.
How would you use a tool like IBM Verse? Let me know in the comments below.