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eMail and Human Process Management

July 14th, 2008 by Jacob Ukelson

Zvi referred me to an interesting post on read-write web on Is Email In Danger? by Alex Iskold, and in many ways the comments were just as interesting as the article. It is clear that email vs. twitter vs. IM vs. wiki is a topic that interests people.  Even though those tools overlap in functionality, I’d bet each will find its proper place and there won’t be one winner.  It would be interesting to see the best practices that are forming about when people use which tool. Just like Fedex, US Mail and email all coexist comfortably…

Personally I am sure that at least in a corporate setting, email is not going to be replaced in the foreseable future. The main reason is that email has become more than just “electronic mail” it has become the implicit mechanism of choice for managing many (if not most) the Human Processes in most organizations.

Using email for unstructured human centric processes is both its strength and its weakness. Just the fact that email is amenable to so many diverse, unstructured processes (and all without IT support) is a huge benefit, the downside is that email isn’t really optimized for managing those processes (but rather for single messages) - so we get Information Overload in our inbox. Threaded conversations are an interesting innovation, but they don’t solve the problem either.

Think about it - in many companies there are specialty systems for the “standard, heavy-duty” processes (like ERP, CRM), but for the other processes (or as someone coined the outside SAP - or OSAP processes) - what does everybody use? eMail! Even if you have a system in place for a specific process - how do you handle exceptions? eMail! How do you work across organizational silos (or across companies)? eMail!

So as I said, I don’t think eMail will be going away any time soon.

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One Response to “eMail and Human Process Management”

  1. Nathan Zeldes Says:

    Indeed, Email is not going away.

    In addition to the theoretical analysis, there is the repeatedly observed fact: though they certainly complain about the overload, people are deeply attached to email. Over the years I’ve been involved in many attempts to drive at Intel the use of “pull mode” solutions, from Usenet-like newsgroups to shared workspaces to RSS feeds… and yet email always remains the method of choice for our users, despite (or because?) its nature as a “push mode” tool. People are simply used to “live in their Inboxes”…

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