The typical corporate user receives about 30 of them a day, up 50% from a year earlier, and spends more than two hours a day dealing with them and the tasks they trigger, according to a recent survey by Ferris Research in San Francisco. What’s more, companies project a 35% to 50% increase in this number over the next year, so it’s possible that by 2002 employees will be spending four hours of their workday doing it. No prizes for guessing what the killer app on the Internet is!
Email is at the core of what we all do. More than browsing the Internet, we spend time communicating. We are inherently dependent on others to get our work done, so this means that we need to interact with others, we need to communicate. Email is helping us be more productive, communicate with an ever greater number of people and keep an ever increasing number of conversational threads on at any point of time. This modern-day wonder is keeping us more glued to our desks and PCs than any other application.
Emails are going to get smarter going ahead, more unified (i.e, a common mailbox for voice mail, faxes and email), and will come to us through many devices (cellphones, wireless PDAs). If anything, the number of messages that we are going to handle is going to probably go up by a factor of at least 5 in the next 3 years in the “Evernet” – the always-on, ubiquitous Internet.
Today’s messaging systems are still not up to the mark. Email is mission-critical, and yet there are no guarantees on quality of service. Also, when I send an email, I need to assume some things: (a) the other person will have received it, (b) the other person will have read it, and (c) the other person will do the action required in the email. So, this means once I send, the onus goes on the transportation system for delivery and the other person for the action. This is too loose a system. I need alerts if an action has not happened, or if the other person has not read or received it. This does not happen today.
Also, many of us find ourselves totally overwhelmed by email – “email fatigue”, as it were. We tend to return phone calls quickly, and yet, many times, we let emails longer on in our Inbox. Writes Acey Gaspard:
E-mail is one of the greatest benefits of the Internet. Either reply to inquiries in a timely manner or remove your E-mail address from your Web site, business cards, and the company letterhead. It will create the same result: you will lose a customer if your don’t answer their E-mails.
In today’s fast paced world we expect things to work quickly. Why does it take so long for some people to answer our E-mails? Professionalism is emphasized by prompt and accurate replies to E-mail correspondence. On the average it takes only a minute or two to hit the reply key and write a response. If you have thirty E-mails in the inbox it would only take a little over an hour to answer all of them.
Email may be the biggest help to productivity – the question is how can we use it to do more? How can we manage this ever-increasing flow of messages coming to us? How can email itself be made smarter? What is the future of messaging? The next few columns will examine these issues.