Meet Me on Email

By Heather Baldwin

You no doubt have been hearing a lot lately about Web conferencing, the phenomenal growth that is projected in that market and how it is revolutionizing meetings of every size. While that’s all true, a new study finds email is still used 90% to 95% of the time for coordinating work between dispersed, multi-organization teams. That’s according to research from IDC, which conducted three focus groups in Boston and San Francisco in September 2002 to determine usage patterns and users’ opinions of email and other collaborative tools within large enterprises.

The 27 participants in the focus groups included both line of business and IT managers and represented companies with 5,000 or more employees from a range of industries. Participants were asked to rank collaborative tools based on a variety of characteristics and then discuss their respective adoption rates, strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly, they acknowledged that workers use email for 90% to 95% of their business tasks, despite their criticisms that it is insecure, inefficient, cluttered with SPAM and costly to maintain. The participants indicated that other collaboration tools, including groupware, instant messaging, conferencing and virtual workspaces, are used only 5% to 10% of the time, and rarely at all for inter-enterprise collaboration.

“Considering the fact that more than 60 billion emails are expected to be sent daily worldwide by 2006, and that more than half will comprise SPAM and email alerts and notifications, users will need to leverage other tools for effective communication and collaboration,” says Mark Levitt, IDC’s vice president of collaborative computing research. Indeed, IDC expects to see a “significant increase in the use of collaboration tools, such as virtual workspaces and real time conferencing tools,” he said. “These tools will be where teams come together to meet and get work done rather than relying solely on the increasingly cluttered and context-free email inbox.”

In order for this to happen, however, Levitt says collaborative software vendors will need to make their tools more like email: easy to use, secure, reliable and integrated with email – the wish list of focus group participants for their perfect collaboration tool.

Want to learn more? Complete study results can be accessed by downloading the white paper, “There Should Be More to Collaboration than Email,” at