matthew
Matthew Ulmer
June 14, 2017

Email Takes a Back Seat to Collaboration

Email is on the way out

It’s a threat as old as (digital) time. But when it comes to internal company communication, the days of email are numbered.

Enter the era of team messaging.

A brief history of team messaging in the workplace

Way back in the stone age of the internet, there was AOL. Anyone remember when cable modems first became a thing with always-on internet and the AIM Away Message became an art form?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some companies let employees run AIM for quick interoffice communication. But in terms of business conversations taking place via instant message, the trend really started with Skype: groups of employees IMing each other in Skype and Skype for Business. If you needed a quick answer on something and didn’t want to go through the rigmarole of starting an email, writing a subject line, using proper grammar, and waiting for a response, you Skyped the person.

And then came the evolution.

Where AIM and Skype predominately revolved around one-on-one or small group conversations, shiny new messaging apps, such as RingCentral Glip, hit the scene. These intuitive platforms provided an easy way for teams of colleagues to communicate with each other in real time, leveraging fun social media habits like hashtags and the ability to tag other users. Tech departments latched instantly, and soon so many other departments and entire organizations followed suit that new team messaging apps reared their heads, such as Slack and HipChat, and Microsoft and Facebook launched their own competing tools, along with roughly 29-trillion-and-2 others. Sites like Huffington Post started publishing articles such as “7 Workplace Chat Apps to Keep Your Team in Sync.”

Team messaging was now an official part of interoffice culture.

And internal email communication found itself clinging on for dear life.

Why team messaging is the better way

If you haven’t yet abandoned email for a real time messaging solution, this section will attempt to convince you why you should.

My main argument is organization.

Better organization

In the world of email, unless you have some rules in place to automatically sort your communication for you, unread messages live in one central place. Regardless of topic, probably based on time received, you have one long string of messages to respond to.

So, you read one email, and it’s about one particular topic. Then you read another on a different topic. Then four messages later you see a response to the original topic. Then you’re onto a third topic.

Maybe you replied to one of these emails only to see, seven unread messages later, that a colleague already said something similar. Or that the conversation went in an entirely different direction. This is a terribly inefficient way to work.

Companies are building email apps specifically to combat this calamity by turning messages into to-dos, letting you snooze messages, and touting the holy goal of “inbox zero.”

But they miss the point. Getting to inbox zero doesn’t make your process any more efficient. It doesn’t allow you to quickly converse with a colleague and then get back to being productive. It still carries the same inherent issues referenced above, and snoozing an email only succeeds at kicking the can down the digital street.

Direct, real-time communication through a team messaging tool genuinely solves the problem. In most of the options out there, Slack and Microsoft’s offerings included, conversations are separated into specific threads. Meaning instead of having to jump in and out of mindsets to read through your emails in time-received order, you can go to a certain thread to read all communication about that specific topic. Simpler, cleaner, better organized. Way, way more efficient for how our brains work.

Net result: You end up getting more work done. You spend less time in epic email exchanges and more time planning, coordinating, accomplishing.

Better collaboration

At Arc Intermedia, we practice integrated digital marketing, which means our efforts work hand in hand with each other. Our search-engine-optimization tactics occur alongside paid search campaigns and content marketing strategies. As a result, members of different departments need to closely collaborate.

Sometimes one of us needs a quick answer on a subject. Other times we need a team brainstorm to find a solution. These scenarios and more are all better handled through a team messaging tool than email. Always.

There are many competing tools out there and our choice is not Slack or Microsoft Teams. It’s RingCentral and I think their homepage title says it all:

In my opinion as a project manager of writers, designers, programmers, media managers, and more, Glip took what worked with other platforms and expanded upon it with useful and simple features. We prefer it to similar tools because in addition to allowing for direct, real-time communication in public and private forums, it also tightly integrates tasks and notes. This allows us to keep all our internal communications in one unified place—whether it’s a detailed conversation, notes from a hearty brainstorm, or a set of to-dos with due dates, everything we need lives in a single tool with desktop and mobile notifications.

Maximum efficiency: No more having to switch mindsets as we jump from various topics in email. No longer having to wait for someone to catch up to email in order to get a response. Fast, direct, useful interaction.

As soon as we started using Glip, we wondered how we ever got anything accomplished before. Never have we collaborated as effortlessly and felt as well connected as we do now.

Tips of the trade

To give you some insight into how you might want to use a collaborative team messaging program for your company, I’ll give a brief overview of how we at Arc Intermedia use Glip:

  • Every overarching project for every client gets its own thread, or team as it’s called in Glip.
  • Employees who work on that project get invited to the team. We bring in others as needed, and, whenever they want, they can leave the team and potentially rejoin it later.
  • Anything a teammate really needs others to act on or respond to becomes a task. Tasks get organized into categories and, if necessary, are assigned a due date.
  • When we really need someone’s attention, we @mention them, resulting in a different notification sound and a different color badge next to that team within the app.
  • Every morning the team goes to their dashboard, which lists all their open tasks and recent @mentions, helping us know where we’re needed. We can also treat our own task list like a to-do app, reorganizing our tasks in whichever priority order we prefer.
  • Important notes and links get stored on the handy sidebar, or shelf, of every team, so we always know where pertinent information lives.
  • We also have threads specifically for non-work fun, like talking about TV shows, music, animals, and even a dedicated forum for Batman discussions.
  • Did I mention Glip has built-in video chat for when we need to do more than type?

Glip has completely replaced our internal email. We’ve achieved inbox zero because we literally have nothing in our inbox from our colleagues. Now I know that when I receive a new email message, it’s either an outside party trying to reach me, or it’s junk. Sometimes the outside party’s message is junk (shhhhh).

It has made work life so much better.

Where email is still needed

It is still the great equalizer for external communication. Glip does allow you to have unlimited guest users, so you can bring outside entities into your Glipping fold, but for the most part, clients, vendors, partners, associates, etc. aren’t likely to utilize your internal communication program. So email is still the unifying tool everyone uses. You always know if you email someone’s active email address, and they aren’t purposely ignoring you, they’ll get the message.

Which is why email marketing is still very much alive.

Company newsletters, new promotions, special discounts—these are all emails you should still be sending. We’re big proponents of marketing automation and drip campaigns, where a visitor to a website completes a form and is added to an email distribution list, and a platform automatically sends that user preselected email messages based on timing and/or actions performed by the visitor.

This is a great way to use email to market your products and services. But when it comes to fast, simple, effective internal communication, nothing at the moment beats collaborative team messaging programs.

And when it comes to collaborative team messaging programs, nothing beats Glip.