Search the Internet, and you’ll find hundreds of applications designed to help you collaborate with other people more effectively. But examine your own habits, and you’ll most likely find that you use just one piece of software for that purpose: an e-mail client.
You’re not alone. A recent USamp study found that 83 percent of business users typically send e-mail attachments to colleagues rather than using collaboration software. According to a recent survey by technology consulting company People-OnTheGo, the average information worker spends 3.3 hours a day dealing with e-mail, and 65 percent of such workers have their e-mail client open all the time.
Even Facebook, which once seemed like a likely replacement for e-mail, at least for the young and plugged-in, has acknowledged that e-mail isn’t going anywhere. On Monday, the company announced a new messaging service that integrates external e-mail with its own internal messaging system—an admission of the staying power of e-mail, and an attempt to enhance its functionality.
Other software makers seem to have accepted that they’ll never pull people’s attention away from their e-mail in-boxes. Instead, they’re looking to add new collaborative and social capabilities to e-mail.
“It’s clear that e-mail is being used and even abused,” says Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Mainsoft, a company based in Tel Aviv, Israel, that sells a plug-in called Harmon.ie. The plug-in links an e-mail application to a collaboration platform such as Google Docs, and to a person’s social networking profiles, calendar applications, voice over Internet protocol software, and so on. To share a document using Harmon.ie, a user drags it from a sidebar to the body of a message, where it becomes a link. When the recipient clicks on the link, she is taken to the document stored in the chosen collaboration software. Using e-mail alone for collaboration creates confusion and overloads in-boxes, Cohen says.