People – and consultants, a bit like myself – often tell unequivocally on social media, and through flashy PowerPoints that email is dead. You must move on. Slack and Microsoft Teams and similar enterprise social tools are the future – a modern way for collaboration and that’s where real work happens now.
Okay. I understand all that. I’ve done my fair share of billable work on setting up, configuring, developing, and integrating companies to Microsoft Teams. It’s great and I use it daily.
But I still like email, too. A lot. And I use it daily also. That too is where real work happens.
My phone rang today. I think it was the first time it rang in weeks. We don’t call people anymore – we chat, we text, we send pictures and brief audio clips. And then we do tons of email and social media on top of that. But to call someone means an awkward conversation like this:
Me: “Hello? Jussi here”
Person: “Oh.. hello”
Me: “Are you busy, can you spare a few minutes to discuss the proposed architecture?”
Person: “Sure” (thinking: why didn’t you send me a message)
My point is, the first telephone call was made in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. That’s 143 years ago. I think the world was black and white at the time. And it’s still a fairly valid way for communication, albeit a bit awkward these days. But it works, and you can get to the point (especially if you’re Dutch) very fast. Most phone calls I have are between 20 and 40 seconds. They are for really reaching someone, like right now, while feeling embarrassed you’re breaking through some invisible and non-negotiable barrier you’ve silently agreed on.
Telefax, on the other hand, is something we barely need or use anymore – at least in the Nordics, it would be a rare sight to see one in action these days. People often mistakenly group telefax with email when thinking of legacy communications channels. Yes, both mediums support and sometimes require things to be printed on actual paper. But email still has many useful purposes.
Just like with voice calls, that are rarer today than before, they are still in use. They serve a purpose. Email serves a purpose, yet Teams and Slack and similar platforms serve another purpose that overlaps – at times – with email and phone calls. But the funny thing is, these can and should coexist.
I like email. Quite a lot. It works offline – always – and does not require a special client. It’s non-intrusive and I can easily make rules that allow me to only pick up the important things. Even animated GIFs are supported in emails now. I also do not feel bad for not reading all incoming emails all the time.
I also like Slack and Teams. But they introduce the same issues that email introduced 20 years ago – if I’m gone for a week, I have a lot to digest. Regardless of medium, I need to catch up – or choose not to catch up.
Email can coexist with modern technologies. And that’s a good thing.
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. Former Microsoft Most Valuable Professional & Microsoft Regional Director, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.