Email is back on the agenda. It is now a big topic as Google, Microsoft and IBM are showing off their new inboxes. It started in January 2014 at IBM Connect where IBM announced IBM Mail Next. A new way of social collaboration from a new collaboration environment. Blending social, mil and main focus on tasks, not the inbox.  At Connect the analysts, like e.g. Gartner were enthusiastic. “I want it now!”

In November IBM revealed IBM Verse (Mail Next) and it is delivered with a browser based an mobile app interface.

In October Google started with Google Inbox, a mobile app to make the inbox more logical and helpful for the enduser. Inbox scans the email and bundles emails together and performs look up for external information that can be helpful to take action on that email  e.g show flight status inside email containing flight number. For the users that use email as todo list, emails can be pinned to the top of the screen as reminders.*wikipedia The app takes good use of the mobile capabilities of swiping to perform actions. That a lot of people perform mail triage, while behind their PC, on their mobile device. 

In November Microsoft started to roll out of Clutter to Office 365 business customers. Clutter is designed to help the user to focus on the most important messages in their inbox. It uses machine learning to de-clutter your inbox by moving lower priority messages out of your way and into a new Clutter folder.

 

So why the sudden intrest in email?

We hear about a life  without email and that the younger generation is no longer using email at all (except for registration purpose to subscribe to social tooling). These models are not (yet) applicable in the enterprise world. And there is no alternative to email. Replacing email with a pure sharing mechanism is not possible. In the end we need a way to communicate in a more optimal way; I could share my colleagues to death (oversharing) , as well as email (cc,bcc) them till they go crazy. Email is a part of corporate culture and communication, but we need to share and communicate on the appropriate platforms available; chat, activity stream, email, etc. We need to Think before we communicate and choose the most efficient and appropriate way. But for some reason some old (email) habits never change! I like to compare to stop emailing with quit smoking: people keep offering your cigarettes (emails) and to light one up is too easy (reply button is so tempting).

What if we brought all the tooling together in one place:Gartner wrote a nice article on the fourth generation of collaboration. You can read it here 

In short: no new tooling (besides co-editing in a document), but focus is on integration of tooling. This means that while in you work within IBM Connections or Sharepoint website you see your chat and your emails on the same page. No more switching between screens and systems. Get rid of the information silos and give the user ease of use they are accustomed to in the public web space. Just like Facebook has their chat and sharebox on one single page. Some of these capability are already available for some time, and yet people keep mailing. Some or most of the collaboration features have been rolled out, but not within all enterprises they have been integrated within a single user interface. This is on one part the lack of integration of technology, “where the user lives”: (email, mobile Office, etc) and on the other hand a lack of user adoption.
In my opinion focussing on adoption and integration, that it is where a good platform can help to ease the pain of a new way of working: it has to be easier than the current way of working. People are reluctant to change, so bring social to them and not force them to “eat” social.

IBM does a great job of delivering social where the user lives: inside IBM Notes, IBM Sametime, 1 mobile app, Microsoft Office, Explorer, etc. Delivering share and sync within those tools, drag and drop of files, add likes and comments: making the new way of working as easy as possible where the user wants it.

But this does not solve the tsunami of emails some users are getting; IBM stepped up the game and announced IBM Verse. It combines IBM research, design, and client and marketplace understanding that answers the question – what if we could reinvent the way that people interact with other people in the enterprise? Using analytics, Verse intelligently surfaces the most relevant information – content related to a meeting just before a meeting, context for an important message, visibility of and to the whole team collaborating on a project.

IBM Verse takes a vastly different approach to enterprise email by integrating the many ways employees connect each day – via email, meetings, calendars, file sharing, instant messaging, social updates, video chats and more – through a single collaboration environment.  It is the first messaging system to feature ‘faceted search,’ which enables users to pinpoint and retrieve specific information they’re seeking across all the various types of content within their email.

IBM Verse uses built-in analytics to provide an ‘at-a-glance’ view that intelligently surfaces an individual’s most critical actions for the day. And again IBM really made a superb mobile app that helps users with intelligent task prioritization and engaging with other people

 

IBM Verse will be available in 2015 on a screen near you.

 

More sources:

Get IBM Verse: http://www.ibm.com/social-business/us/en/newway/index.html

IBM PR http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/45402.wss

Nice graphic from Alan Hamilton

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