Will Web 2.0 Overtake E-Mail?


Is e-mail going by the wayside?

Rob Preston at InformationWeek says no. And he makes a good argument.

Preston was responding to a WSJ article analyzing why e-mail's reign has ended. The story, by Jessica E. Vascellaro, pointed to the rise of social media tools that increase speed and collaboration. Preston counters that while tools like Twitter, Facebook and others offer gains over traditional e-mail, they're still impersonal and limited in functionality.

Harvard professor Andy McAfee has been talking about Web 2.0 tools for a few years, since he coined the phrase "Enterprise 2.0" in a Sloan Management Review article (subscription required to read full article).

He spoke with me last week--ahead of the release of his long-awaited book, Enterprise 2.0--and brought up another reason why e-mail is lacking.

McAfee told me about a conversation he had with a CIO from an investment bank. The CIO said Web 2.0 technologies were, in fact, a great defense.

"He said all these Web 2.0 technologies were his best defense, because all the contributions to them are very widely visible, essentially public, and attributed back to the people that made them. That means that the instant there's any flavor of infraction, the community will help him figure out what happened, how bad it is, who did it, and then he can show any regulator or authority when the problem occurred, when his company became aware of it, what action it took and how quickly it was removed."

As McAfee notes, businesses typically don't get in trouble for isolated incidents, but instead for extended periods or patterns of misbehavior. And e-mail, he says, can be a catalyst for that misbehavior.

"These technologies and platforms are great for making sure incidents don't turn into patterns, whereas e-mail--which is a fantastic technology because it happens via private channels--is a great technology for allowing abuses to continue and flourish for a long time."

We'll have more from McAfee in the November issue of CIO Insight, and I'll post more here before then.

In the meantime, two things. First, can you see a time where Web 2.0/collaborative tools will actually replace e-mail at your company? What will it take for that to happen?

And check out this package from award-winning writer Deb Gage on why traditional software might be on the way out. In it, Sunoco CIO Peter Whatnell explains his thinking in evaluating a move to Web-based e-mail at his company.


3 Comments for "Will Web 2.0 Overtake E-Mail?"

  • Inforonics November 16, 2009 2:27 pm

    I don't think Web 2.0 will ever kill off e-mail. Even e-mail on a cloud will take sometime to really take down programs like Outlook.

  • magnus von lang October 28, 2009 11:16 am

    If you are in the mortgage business and you have a "isolated incident," I guarantee that you will get fined, sanctioned and/or put out of business. The state regulators do not care who they put out of business or what they have done to correct the issue. They want revenue!!!! They will put 100 people out of a job, whether it was the first time or not. m

  • A. Stoy October 19, 2009 2:50 pm

    Ever got the excuse from an employee or a team leader or anyone else that he didn't get your email, and although email isn't that secure in arriving at the recipient due to spam filters and the send-and-forget design of it, you still had the feeling, well, I can't prove he is lying to me....? Ever got the feeling, oops I wrote something that might have offended Mr So-and-so, and damn I don't know whether he is seeing what I wrote here on Facebook or Twitter or ...? Shouldn't people communicate from face to face sometimes at least? Ever experienced people sitting in the same room typing away for hours chatting with these direct messaging tools? Communication needs respect, and I do not feel the appropriate respect when I am talking to somebody on the phone and he is obviously not listening, but typing and chatting with various people at the very same time. It happens to me all day and beside the missing well-behaved education, it is not productive at all. That's the main point: Where do the hours go? Employers will develop a sense of throwing money out of the windows with this communication overload. Company leaders should show and lead what the best communication companywide is and should be. And that might be different from company to company or even from department to department. For some a WEB 2.0 application might be better than email, for some a forum will do; some may try out other tools like Instant Desktop Mailer to lead their team with directives presented to them directly to their desktop, without spam filters and other excuses and without distraction. Productive work needs focus. Whatever tool is used, it is probably not the only one. So I would think the trend in companies will be to restrict the use of tools and to use the one that fits best for the focus on performance and productivity. And that is no question of email or not.

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