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Is Email’s Reign Coming to an End?

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Two years ago, I wrote an article for GigaOM Pro entitled Email: The Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated (subscription required), in which I explained why email is such a useful tool and why I thought it was unlikely to be replaced as the primary business communications medium any time soon. In the time since then, however, we’ve seen a wave of newer cloud-based communications and collaboration products taking the enterprise by storm. Could email be overtaken by these?

While it’s been widely reported that teens no longer use email, it seems that attitudes to email are changing in workplace, too. According to a new GigaOM Pro report, The Future of Workplaces (subscription required), which surveyed 1,000 decision makers and end-users about the ways that workplaces are changing, workers don’t necessarily believe email will continue to be such a critical tool in the future:

Key Technologies: Future Use

The report’s authors highlight the fact that, while the respondents believed they would use newer technologies like VoIP and videoconferencing increasingly in the future, the more traditional tools like email and the office landline showed a noticeable downward trend.

These findings shouldn’t be surprising; having a greater range of useful (and relatively inexpensive) communications tools at our disposal means we can pick the best tools for a given job, which should make our communications more effective. The availability of tools like Dropbox and, for example, has greatly simplified the process of sharing files with others, and should mean fewer people trying to send large files as email attachments. And for internal office communications, social business tools like Yammer and Chatter (s crm) make for easier conversation than can be had over email distribution lists. However, even though we now have a greater range of useful tools to call upon, I think email will continue to play a vital role in our business communications for the foreseeable future. It has advantages — such as being simple, asynchronous and virtually universal — that aren’t all shared by its newer competitors. Don’t expect to see it going the way of the dodo just yet.

For more insight on the way that our workplaces are changing, check out the full report over on GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image Source: GigaOM Pro

7 Responses to “Is Email’s Reign Coming to an End?”

  1. While the communication medium will keep evolving I don’t think email will die. How will a bank send its statement to the customer? On the customer’s facebook wall?

    I do agree that for certain kind of communication Facebook groups are more friendly than email. But for standard communication I still feel email is better. The email is on your PC (or cloud or whatever) which you can backup.

    Teens today are not using email a lot. I see that myself with the kids around the family. But the communication skills (written) too is taking a huge beating because of SMS/Facebook language. They can’t write one single line properly :-(

  2. Derek Scruggs

    As long as the boss prefers it email will be dominant. Once upon a time people used to write memos despite the fact that nobody learned how to do it until they got out of college (or in secretarial school).

  3. That chart makes no sense. It suggests people are currently using email and landlines more than in the past, but expect to use them less in the future. So use is still growing but is going to drop off dramatically very soon? And the things you suggest are so great, people aren’t using now, but expect to some time in the future. How far in the future is this point where we suddenly switch? If it’s 10 years in the future, you’re still predicting the death of email prematurely.
    Also, if I already use email a lot and you ask me if I’ll use it more next year, the answer will probably be “no” since I’m already using it close to my capacity. There would be no room for more usage. When current usage is low (like it is for video conferencing) there is nowhere to go but up.

    • I concur. We may see growth in the other mediums for communicating but that doesn’t imply we will use email less. Email is a tool and as desktop and webclients blur it may end up that our utilization evolves to the point where using one medium vs another is tough to distinguish. That bein said Unified Communications as a whole is in it’s infancy email will continue to be one of primary tools for communication for years to come.

    • Fair comment, Peter. The point I was trying to make is that it seems that there is a change in perception around email: it’s no longer the default communications tool in many people’s minds.That’s a good thing.

      But like I said in the post, I still think email will be around for a while yet; it’s provides benefits that its competitors cannot.

      • “it’s no longer the default communications tool in many people’s minds”. I’m not sure how you concluded that.

        The way I read it, the chart seems to suggest exactly the opposite. Email is the technology with the highest value for “using more than last year.” It is also the third highest for “using more in the future.” To me, that sounds like the default tool.

        I think you are just looking at the spread between the two bars, and given the way the survey was conducted, that’s a pretty meaningless statistic. (And if you are just looking at the spread, why not call out VoIP as a future technology too? Or is there some other bias at work here?)