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Bridging the gap between email and social collaboration

This new Harris Poll shows that corporate email needs to evolve. Another interesting takeaway for me was based on the following:

1.  Social collaboration tools are on the rise in the workplace.  Of those people who use these tools at work, 59% say that their usage has increased over the last year. 

2.  91% of respondents say that email remains their most frequently used tool for inter- and intra-company collaboration.

These two points (greater use of social software together and strong continued use of email) is hard to reconcile given that email and Web 2.0 collaboration still sit in separate silos. Cars have “crumple zones” to absorb the impact of opposing forces; sadly, the crumple zone here is user satisfaction and efficiency.

Users definitely see a place of social collaboration tools in the workplace, but what has impacted the usefulness  of these tools is their breadth of reach.  According to this survey, 63% think the biggest problem weakness of social collab tools is that their co-workers don’t use the same system (i.e., they use email only).

We are doing disservice to our customers by forcing them to trade off the benefits of one tool vs. another. What’s needed is a new model with zero compromise. Users should be able to reach any person or group using their preferred method of collaboration and have easy access to content regardless of where it was created—bridging the gap that currently exists between email and social collaboration. 

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the topic.  How do you think email should evolve in order to accommodate users of social collaboration tools?

by Bassam Khan, director of product management, Cisco Collaboration Software Group

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7 Comments.


  1. Hi Bassam – do you think companies are becoming more receptive for their employees to use social media throughout the workday? Obviously they don’t want their team on FarmVille, but using FaceBook or Twitter to build relationships with customers or for customer service is a valid strategy.Brian

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  2. In short, yes, companies/IT are becoming more receptive to social media. They see the value because they themselves are increasingly consumers of social media sent from other companies; tweets for service status, blogs from industry visionaries and LinkedIn for recruiting. Whether the user spends their day on FarmVille or Mafia Wars is more of an HR challenge than one of technology. When I was in IT we had an employee who we suspected of playing computer games at work but he would always quit out as people approached him. His boss and I walked into his office one evening and clearly saw Command and Conquer on the reflection from a window behind him. That’s not an IT issue… The challenge for IT is really around data loss prevention, roles/rights, policies and malware. And of course, corporate compliance, as I wrote here: http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-11406-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=73015&messageID=1417110&tag=content;col1

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  3. Brian Anderson: Its a good idea to use facebook for business networking.. Email is now seems to boring.. Social networking has changed the concept of communication totally.. but still I think the communication gap among social networking can be filled by multiple network status updates by justing updating at a single site.. eg updated status at facebook but also showing at yahoo messenger and myspace profile etc..like you are getting my status or msg at myspace :: Julie has updates her status at facebook of julie has sent msg from facebook”" in the same way updated at gmail and ymail, msn and linkedinn too..mean single status at multiple site at the same time..I think this is the way to solve the problem of compatibility of multiple communication, but its only possible when all of big portals are convinced to do so.. otherwise connecting two of more sites will not work..”

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  4. The corporate environment is always about as far back in technology as possible without everything actually falling in on them. You can’t blame them however. Upgrading large amounts of computers is expensive. I think that the corporate world will learn to adapt…albeit slowly.

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  5. Doesn’t it really depend on the job position? I have clients that “lock down” their employees computers from stuff like facebook and twitter because it’s viewed as a waste of time. I can them being useful in sales and for the self employed but for most, I just assume them stick to their job.

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    • Doron Aronson

      It is virtually impossible to completely block employees from using social media and social networking tools within the workplace. Rather than simply “saying no” it is more effective to look at a blended approach that combines policies, process, and technology to mitigate risks to acceptable levels.

      One reason why it is getting almost impossible to completely isolate workers from social media and social networking sites is the increased use of smart phones and tablets that enable employees to access the Internet while in the workplace without using the corporate intranet. Additionally, more and more organizations are offering different work arrangements such as a home office option. As the workplace becomes more virtual, workers are connecting to corporate resources from mobile or remote locations where they also have access to social media and social networking sites. At some point, there is an element of culture and trust that needs to be established via governance mechanisms between employer and employee regarding the acceptable use of consumer sites and services.

      We should remember that in the early days of e-mail, organizations often limited external access to select workers based on role and job need. Today, we provide employees with broad access to the Internet. There are of course certain regulated industries where more thorough security and compliance requirements can impose restrictions and in those cases, there may be better justification for more controls.

      If an organization has the right policies, processes, and tools in place so that risks are mitigated to acceptable levels, then access to social media and social networking can be part of a “culture of trust” between employer and employee.

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