Are enterprise social networks an email killer?

While conventional corporate communication and collaboration tools have advanced greatly in recent times, powered by enterprise mobility and the consumerization of IT, they do have their weak points and faults. So is there an alternative or new way forward for enterprise-level communications?

Email has been with us as a mainstream communications tool for a couple of decades now, but it remains one of those ‘imperfect’ systems that seem to exist in all organizations. Email has, of course, brought us many benefits, but in the modern, more interactive and collaborative era, it doesn’t contribute that much to the overall bigger picture. People spend a significant amount of time managing email on a daily basis, and it lacks that collaborative element as well as other features.

So email remains a handy tool with which to deliver a quick note, but as a productive collaboration tool? Not so much. Employees regularly complain about lengthy email exchanges that contain discussion and attached documents. Email is by definition slower than real-time instant messaging because one party has to wait for the other to respond. From an administrative point of view, email also means lots of legacy data archives stored on servers, data that takes a long time to migrate to the cloud. So it is fair to say that in the eyes of the enterprise user or system administrator, email has become something of a dinosaur that everyone must wrestle with on a daily basis.

More agile ways exist

Enterprise social networks (ESN) offer a more agile, simpler and more efficient way of communicating between internal teams. They are more user-friendly tools and have the in-built benefit of being the same types of apps employees use to communicate with friends and family in their private lives - in short, they are familiar. Most of today’s ‘connected’ population are regularly active on one or more social networks and know their way around them intuitively.

Social networks and the consumerization of IT have simply made end-users more used to collaborating. Think of the amount of ‘sharing’ we do via social networks on a daily basis and apply that philosophy to the workplace – suddenly collaborating and sharing ideas with colleagues seems to be much more instinctive. So end-users now want more ‘collaborative’ in the enterprise environment – for example, WhatsApp groups are being created between groups of co-workers to exchange information and keep up with all the latest news on a project – and WhatsApp is certainly not a corporate tool.

So what comes next?

Thanks to the huge paradigm shift in digital living, email will simply not be able to cope as a mechanism for what we want to do in the workplace – it was never designed for such high levels of collaboration and instant communication, levels that nobody ever predicted.

So ultimately email will eventually lose its place as the number 1 corporate communications tool, though as I mentioned earlier, it will keep its place as a traditional send-and-receive tool. But its lack of collaboration capabilities means email will inevitably go the way of internal memos, snail mail and the fax machine, all tools of their time but not ones able to satisfy the demands of today’s always-on digital generation.

So for a time ESN and email will exist alongside each other, but soon enough ESN will begin to dominate, particularly as new features and capabilities continue to be added. At the same time, the business benefits offered by ESN will see corporates becoming increasingly keen on adopting them in favor of other communication and collaboration solutions.

That’s partly because enterprise using ESN report faster problem resolution and an increase in time-to-innovation of 31 percent – plus a highly attractive 10 percent revenue growth. 2015 saw a 9 percent jump in use of social tools by EU enterprises, from 30 percent in 2013 to 39 percent. Business has embraced ESN as the tools that workers and customers now want to use most to communicate and collaborate.

The next generation of enterprise comms

I really do not intend to criticize email – far from it – email has served us extremely well for 20 years or more and still has its place. But as with all things enterprise IT, times change and technologies evolve. At Orange we believe that customer experience is central to digital transformation, and as such individual employees and teams need to have that personal digital feel in the workplace to give a great experience to your customers – and ESN can deliver that.

In the end, ESN helps you better connect employees, increase productivity, eliminate siloes, leverage collective knowledge by fostering collaboration and reduce inefficiencies. If you have not embraced ESN in your business yet, what are you waiting for?

To read further about how Orange can help your business understand the benefits of ESN and its place as the future of enterprise communications and collaboration, please visit:

Ahmed Tag Eldeen
Ahmed Tag Eldeen is a senior product manager at Orange Business, where he is responsible for the international domain Messaging and Social Enterprise solutions.
Ahmed has over 15 years of experience in multiple domains, including connectivity, security and communication solutions. During his 11 years with Orange he has held numerous leadership position, ranging from engineering to managing the international IP problem experts team.