According to The Radicati Group, over 100 billion business emails are sent every single day. For reference, that’s roughly around 14 emails per human being currently walking the earth. It’s an insane deluge of information and communication. And for many businesses, that deluge remains their primary communication method.
While all of the bells and whistles surrounding email have evolved quite a bit in recent years, email itself has remained relatively stagnant. Sure, it’s available on our mobile devices now and synced to the cloud, but the experience is largely the same. You send a message, someone receives it. They reply to it, forward it to someone else, ignore it or, my personal favorite, accidentally “reply all” and embarrass themselves in the process.
Why are businesses—which have changed drastically in recent years in terms of workstyles, business models, etc.—relying so heavily on a communication technology that’s barely changed at all?
There are two things at play here. The first is a phenomenon that plagues businesses in several ways, not just communication and collaboration: inertia. People don’t like change, and that goes double for businesspeople. Email technically works, or at least works well enough to prevent employees from putting forth the effort to learn a new way of working.
The second is related to the first, but is something that we can start addressing a bit more proactively: lack of viable alternatives. There was no better way to share documents or work with others on ongoing projects (assuming they weren’t at the desk next to you) other than managing everything through email.
Luckily, alongside email’s evolution, its alternatives—truly collaborative tools that bring workers together in innovative new ways—have evolved right alongside it.
Here are just a few of the ways that overreliance on email as your primary form of communication may be holding your business back:
Lack of Version Control
We toss around a lot of files at work these days. The latest version of a slide deck, new sales collateral, brochures for trade shows and corporate messaging documents are all collaborated on and reviewed by numerous stakeholders. Email forces us to manually pull attachments and to keep track of where in the chain of events we are to ensure that we’re grabbing the most up-to-date version of a document.
All it takes is one person along the chain to grab the wrong version of a file and make edits to it to set a project back. And even if it’s a relatively simple fix, it still equates to time lost due to inefficiencies in the tools we use.
Compare email’s file sharing experience to something like a shared online team workspace or a file, sync and share service that automatically maintains a revision history and presents the most recent version for download to all team members. Email’s file sharing inefficiencies very quickly reveal themselves.
According to a study by McKinsey, workers spend nearly 20% of their weeks simply searching for information. Not working, not moving a project forward, just looking for the information they need to get their jobs done.
By centralizing things in a project management tool, for example, your employees know that all communications relevant to said project are in a particular place, rather than being buried in dozens of disparate email chains. Again, it all comes down to saving time through more intelligent and efficient ways of working together. And time is money, as they say.
Finally, email lacks visibility and accountability. Yes, you can CC (or even BCC) anyone you like, but you’re still creating a paper trail rather than establishing a central, visible and shared workflow where everyone understands what’s expected of them. Also, you CC at your own peril; if you’re routinely including management in your CCs, your collaborators may feel you are passive-aggressively going over their heads.
Email forces you to send endless follow-ups to ensure everyone understands their specific deliverables, when a shared team collaboration tool keeps everyone honest by holding everyone collectively accountable. This keeps projects humming along smoothly, helping your team meet its deadlines and mitigating lines like “Sorry, this got lost in my email.”
Inertia is still a very real problems for businesses, but there are plenty of more than viable alternatives to email available today, regardless of your team’s size or needs. Don’t spend another day stuck in your own inbox.
Take the next step towards getting out of email with our free buyer’s guide.
This post originally appeared on CIO.com’s Collaboration Nation blog, sponsored by PGi.