The evolving role of email in business communication

Email's been around for decades, but its role in corporate communications is changing as collaborative software grows more popular and accessible.

Will email eventually give way to current IM and collaborative tools? It is conditional. While email remains the fundamental communications medium for the corporate sector, the development of platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack has lessened its usefulness in some instances. Let's look at why and how email's position in corporate communications will change shortly.

Where email falls short, collaboration tools excel.

The email was created in the 1970s and quickly took off when the internet became widely available in the mid-1990s. While email has developed from a solely text-based communication medium to one that allows written text, graphics, and video, the basic foundation, and usage of digital messaging have stayed substantially unchanged. As a result, several aspects of email continue to plague businesses and users, including:

  • Cumbersome and difficult-to-manage team and group email threads
  • Widespread malware and phishing risks
  • A lack of true instant messaging or real-time one-on-one or group collaboration
  • A lack of true cohesion between email platforms and other collaboration services and tools.

Collaboration providers, predictably, took advantage of these flaws to create technologies that have recently been quite popular. These collaboration platforms have the following features:

  • One-on-one and team and group communication threads that are readily structured
  • Real-time communication through IM, team chat, phone, video, presence, and file sharing
  • Seamless interaction across collaboration tools
  • Platforms that prioritize security.

Email's ace in the hole is its pervasiveness, but for how long?

However, adopting instant messaging and collaboration technology has a big downside. Unlike email, which allows users both within and outside the organization to interact freely, collaboration software requires all users to communicate on the same private platform.

Given the dozens of popular instant messaging and collaboration platforms vying for market share, it's uncommon for a corporation to wish to connect and collaborate with everyone who uses the same vendor platform. In many businesses, IM and collaboration tools have mostly been used for intercompany contacts. Email remains the most widely used technique of communication with others.

However, this may be changing. Providers of instant messaging and collaboration platforms are making it simpler for their tools to connecting across vendor platforms. Companies such as Microsoft, Slack, Cisco, Google, and Zoom are collaborating to provide cross-platform interoperability, allowing users to connect while using multiple products. While this sort of integration is still in its early stages and will certainly meet some hiccups along the way, probably, users of the most popular collaboration applications will soon be able to connect regardless of platform.

Will corporate email be phased out soon?

However, no firm of any size is likely to completely forgo email in favor of existing collaboration tools. However, email's function in business communications will evolve. An email will most likely be seen as a more formal mode of communication – both internally and publicly – and will be used to generate and disseminate sophisticated textual content supplied in a primarily unidirectional fashion. For the majority of other tasks, IM and collaboration technologies just outperform.