Is email dead
? The answer is still being debated. But one thing is certain: While ESNs (enterprise social networks)
are probably not going to completely eradicate email usage, they are fast changing the way people in the workplace communicate, share ideas and collaborate. Here are three ways ESNs are better than email:
1. ESNs increase work efficiency and foster better knowledge sharing.
If you’ve experienced working for a company without a knowledge management system in place
, email may sometimes work like this: If John needs information he thinks Ellen has, he emails her, to which Ellen replies – if John types in the correct email address and the email doesn’t get trapped in the spam filter, that is. If Ellen unfortunately doesn’t have the information he needs, John sends an email blast to his department’s distribution list. If nobody in the list can help John, he emails another department. If that department can’t offer anything helpful, on and on goes the quest for the missing information. In the event one of John’s emails finally finds its way into the responsible person’s inbox, there’s no guarantee that John will get an immediate response, particularly if the said recipient still needs to weed through 3,108 emails that include invitations from lunch buddies and discussions about the most recent Game of Thrones episode that are in no way tied to work. (Yes, email abuse does happen.) The scenario may seem a little extreme, if not depressing, but it’s not too far removed from reality, either. One good thing about enterprise social networks is that threaded conversations are visible to participants, and people who can’t directly help can tag or invite those they think can, quickly finding the experts and making knowledge sharing more effective. Plus, any time the same question or issue crops up, discussions are archived for review.
2. ESNs simplify data gathering, sharing and collaboration.
You’re a team leader, and you need to gather your team’s personal information, as HR needs to again update its employee database
. There are several ways this can be done. One, send the team an email enumerating the data they need to provide. When everyone has replied with their answers, you’re ready to input the data into a master file. Two, direct them to a link in the company’s shared drive containing an Excel file. Ask them to download the file and fill it out. When done, instruct them to send you the filled-out worksheet as an email attachment. After which, you’re set to work on the master file. Three, if everyone has a working Google Docs account and the company’s VPN (virtual private network) doesn’t block access to third-party accounts, you can create a worksheet that you can then share with the team. As long as everyone is able to edit the file, the Google Docs file will also function as your master file. Option number three is, hands down, the best option in terms of efficiency. But what if not everyone has a Google Docs account? Creating one is certainly not a pain, but will the company allow it? Or what if the VPN or proxy server is se t to screen all non-work-related Internet addresses? Most ESNs, on the other hand, are equipped with document management features that allow users to share, download and collaborate on documents, videos and presentations
. Document libraries can be made public or specific to certain users or group profiles. ESN activity streams also allow participants to post comments, attach new document versions, see changes and receive feedback – all in real-time.
Now, consider this scenario. You’re a retailer, and new items are available for sale. You have several branches, so you send an email to your branch supervisors advising them of the new merchandise. You also attach a price list. The next day, you realize there were wrong entries in the list, so you decide to send another email containing the corrections. For some reason, one of the supervisors doesn’t get the second email, so he doesn’t know that several of the new items are actually priced 50% higher than originally indicated. This supervisor turns out to be your selling superstar, too, and the next thing you know, he has already disposed a big chunk of his branch’s just-delivered supply using the erroneous selling price. It’s a known fact that not all emails being sent reach the intended recipients’ inbox, and for business-critical communications, relying on email alone can be catastrophic to the company’s bottom line. Good ESNs have announcement features wh ere important notices remain plastered on the upper right-hand side of the screen until users acknowledge having already read or acted upon them.
The above are just three reasons ESNs have the upper hand over email, and there are certainly more that this blog post doesn’t cover. The bottom line, however, is crystal clear: For easier collaboration and more effective communication within your organization, ESNs are definitely worth a shot.