Email Persists

TempA survey shows that CIOs (73%) and office workers (53%) agree that email will continue as the primary internal communication tool through at least 2020. When instant messaging became popular around 2004, analysts predicted it would outpace email, which obviously hasn't happened. Reports of email's demise were common until about 2010, when people may have realized how stubborn the technology is.

Email's persistence isn't because it's a great tool. According to the MediaPost survey, CIOs did rate email best for daily communications (41%), but this is compared to other channels: in-person meetings (22%), instant messaging (13%), phone calls (9%), internal social networks (8%), and video conferencing (7%). I would argue that the channel depends on the purpose and audiences. Otherwise, this is a difficult question to answer.

The survey reporters criticized instant messaging because people expect an immediate response. But, again, this doesn't consider that IM has a different purpose and will often solve immediate problems. Academic research shows that people who use IM, perhaps paradoxically, feel they have more control over their work, possibly because they get work accomplished through IM instead of having to wait longer for an email response. Then again, in some circles, people are expected to respond to email immediately as well.

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  • What's your view of email compared to other communication tools, such as, instant messaging? 
  • What's the real value of email compared to other tools? Why do you think it has persisted?
  • What's your biggest frustration with email?
  • What, if any, tools, such as Slack, have you used to help manage email? What have you found helpful?