Becoming a real-time enterprise – why email has served its purpose

Person using laptop with email symbols above - collaboration
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Despite it sounding somewhat cliché, in business, time really is of the essence. This is especially true when it comes to collaboration. Pre-pandemic, real-time interactions were relatively easy to foster for those that were office-based. Whether it was the ability to walk over to a colleague’s desk and get a response to a time-sensitive question, or even just bounce creative ideas around a room, collaboration was fast and effective.

About the author

Andrew Filev is Founder and CEO of Wrike.

However, the last 18 months have fundamentally shifted the way that we think about the concept of ‘work’. It has also revolutionized the way we collaborate. As offices shut their doors and in-person meetings gave way to video conferencing calls, many traditional processes needed a makeover to ensure business continuity and survival. As we continue to move away from full-time office-based interaction and towards a more hybrid workplace, employees must maintain an online presence and be reachable, regardless of where they are based. Effective communication has never been more important and becoming a real-time, collaborative enterprise is a reality worth chasing.

Yet, for many businesses, there is one legacy collaboration tool that stands in the way, so entrenched in the business landscape that it is difficult to imagine life without it. By relying solely on this tool, many organizations will never reach their full potential within our new hybrid world. Email has had its day as our go-to solution for business communication and collaboration. It’s time to think outside the in(box).

Old school collaboration

When email first burst onto the scene in the 1970s, it revolutionized the business landscape. Messages and even files between co-workers no longer had to be hand delivered or sent in the post. Instead, they could be almost immediately sent anywhere around the world. All you needed was a computer. It was probably one of the biggest communication breakthroughs ever witnessed.

However, since the first email was sent, the business landscape has become a lot more complex. International networks and a never-ending stream of different tools and processes can make it harder to keep track of the day-to-day. To add to this, the world is so volatile that everything can change in an instant – as we all witnessed last year. It’s no wonder that a tool that was created over 50 years ago is struggling to keep up.

When it comes to the modern enterprise, relying on email as a sole means of communication comes with several challenges. For example, threads between multiple recipients are often complex and tedious to stay on top of. It can also be difficult to find specific information quickly which becomes an issue if any tasks or questions are time sensitive.

All too often the way that employees are using email is actually becoming a direct threat to overall business productivity. In fact, a recent study discovered that people in the workplace spend 3.1 hours per day on average sending and checking their emails. That’s 15.5 hours per week, or 20 full weeks of the year. The same study calculated that this means a business which has a 200-strong workforce on the UK minimum wage would pay its staff £1.2m each year for reading and sending emails. To make matters worse, around half of this time is being wasted needlessly checking for updates, deleting spam and sending personal emails.

It’s time for change

Although entirely discarding email isn’t on the cards just yet for many, there’s no doubt that our new reality calls for a new set of cultures, processes and tools and there’s no better time to start adopting them than today. Businesses need to boost collaboration and support employees, enabling them to stay connected in real-time regardless of their location.

This is where collaborative work management solutions come in. These technologies make it possible for almost-instant information sharing and greater visibility across internal teams and departments. They bring defined processes to every single task and become the digital assembly line for all aspects of work, keeping associated documents and information about assignments together. This helps to eliminate silos, whilst streamlining teams, to ensure that everyone is on the same page, no matter where they are working from.

The ability to keep all communication in one place also reduces the need to trawl through thousands of emails to get up to date with activity. All context and conversations will be ordered together chronologically so individuals can find any proof points they need with ease. By swapping endless email threads for real-time updates, employees will be encouraged to take accountability for deadlines and results. They will also have more time to spend on more engaging work that drives real value for the business.

There’s no doubt that email has served us well over the last 50 years. But it’s time to move on and take the next step. Becoming a real-time enterprise is a dream worth chasing. This is why, as we welcome in our new era of hybrid working, the most successful organizations will be those that prioritize new collaboration technologies.

Andrew Filev

Andrew Filev, Founder, Wrike.