Time for email to reinvent itself


22 June 2016
Oliver Prevrhal of Retarus Asia

When Ray Tomlinson became the first person to send a message from one computer to another in 1971, he did not know just how revolutionary his invention would turn out in the coming future. The email, as we now know it, was born.

To this date, email remains an essential part of the digital workplace. Radicati has projected that the number of worldwide email accounts will grow from 4.1 billion accounts in 2015 to about 5.2 billion by the end of 2018. However, to continue Tomlinson’s legacy in the future, email must reinvent itself and adapt to meet the requirements of the changing business landscape.

Due to greater use of cloud services and mobile devices by companies, the demands on email communication are changing rapidly. Email solutions are already being used for far more than merely transmitting messages. Innovative email solutions can efficiently integrate calendars, room booking systems, task management and file-sharing, simplifying the work considerably for users. Mechanisms that relieve users of work procedures by automating them have also become key components in email clients and server systems. 

Here are some ways emails can reinvent itself:

1) Flexible models

With the changing technology landscape, the demands and expectations of workers regarding email systems are becoming ever more heterogeneous. The trend is to move away from uniform email models for all employees towards individualised and customised user interfaces and apps. To get the best results, companies should implement a combination of mobile and work station email solutions and allow employees to decide which model best serves their current needs according to the location or task at hand. For example, to complement programs such as Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes, startups such as Inky, CloudMagic or Triage offer innovative apps which are intended for touchscreens. While these apps may not be suitable for lengthy email interactions, they enable users to filter and respond quickly to selective messages using any smartphone or tablet.

2) Better protection against the deluge of emails

The efficiency of email communication is also becoming increasingly important. Radicati estimates that by 2018, business emails will account for over 125 billion emails sent and received per day, many of which will be spam and phishing messages. There are email security solutions to support companies in the battle against thei flood of emails. Through a combination of virus scanners and intelligent spam and phishing filters, such services ensure spam and phishing messages do not gain access to the email inbox. In addition, there is now additional functionality which allows large emails to reach the users’ inbox even when the message exceeds the defined size limit.

3) Automation leading to greater efficiency

In order to design business communication as efficiently as possible, communication processes that take up a lot of time must be fully automated. Many employees typically use “single function” apps to categorise and prioritise their emails. To ensure efficient email communication in the future, a growing number of intelligent mechanisms will be employed to take over the filtering, chronological sorting and task-based structuring of relevant information. By using self-learning algorithms, it will soon be feasible to fully automate typical service tasks such as order processing or handling service instances, leaving more time for staff to concentrate on their core tasks once again.

4) Intelligent mechanisms empowering users with additional information

Innovative email systems also provide added value by offering additional details about the sender, recipient or planned meetings along with the information typically provided in classic messaging transmission. For instance, forward-looking email solutions connect messages automatically with contact details or profiles of colleagues and business partners, or link travel details with upcoming business trips. The system does not only search through internal address books, calendars or CRM systems, but also finds relevant news from the Internet or social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. With this, users can be more prepared for communicating with their contacts or planning forthcoming trips.

At the end of the day, it will be necessary to raise the levels of staff satisfaction and productivity in the digital workplace, and make it easier for the employees to collaborate with colleagues and customers. Email solutions of the future should, therefore, not only be easy and flexible to use from any device and adaptable to meet new requirements, but also function as a one-stop solution for office management.

* Oliver Prevrhal is managing director of Retarus Asia.