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Warning Will Robinson! -- It's 2015 Prediction Time -- E-mail Becomes Cool Again

Dec 15, 2014 8:15:00 AM by John Mancini

Yes, it's that time again.

No, not just the holiday season (BTW, there are still a few days left to get that ultimate holiday gift, Will's Christmas List, soon to be a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt as me and Anjelina Jolie as my wife.*).  

It's 2015 Prediction Time!

I'll be pontificating on 2015 over the next few weeks. Actually, I have already started.  Prediction number one was published on the IBM Big Data and Analytics blog (thanks, IBM!).  I think there will likely be about 12 -- kind of like the 12 Days of Predictions.  But maybe not; we'll see.  At some point I will need to start actual Christmas shopping.

My running tally of prediction posts so far:

  1. 2015:  The Year of the I in IT (originally published on the IBM blog; will republish at the end)
  2. 2015:  E-mail Becomes Cool Again

Email Becomes Cool Again

We’ve all spent a lot of cycles (including me) talking about the death of email as the central nervous system of our organizations. We’ve all made the same arguments -- as social systems sweep through our organizations and as those pesky millennials come in (well versed in social land), email will be relegated to the dustbin of enterprise systems.

Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated.”

the death of email

There are a lot of signs to me that rather than becoming marginalized, a new and revitalized approach to thinking about email is about to take hold, and 2015 will be the year for this.  Here are a few of the signs, centered around new visions of the user experience, all pointing to an expanded view of email as the center of a broader universe of interactions.

  1. If you haven’t taken a look at Google Inbox, you need to.  Invites are still needed (like in the early days of gmail), but they are not hard to get.  The user experience takes a page out of the “zero inbox” playbook, complete with a nice sunshine screenshot if you get to that zero inbox nirvana. But the point of Google Inbox is this -- take the existing tab-driven auto-categorization of gmail (Work, Promotions, Social, etc.) and map it directly into the user experience.  In addition, the point is to pull notifications related to social interactions in Google+ into the email interface and allow users to review all this stuff in one place.  And of course capturing (and analyzing) all of this information flow allows for Google to deliver those very useful (and at times also somewhat creepy) Google Notes. The good news for users is that Google Inbox makes it very intuitive to quickly review promotional and social emails and dismiss them with one “sweep.” The bad news is for email marketers -- this is your worst nightmare come true.

  2. IBM has also entered into the revolutionized email game with IBM Verse. The concept behind Verse is “email that understands you” and to use analytics to bridge the gap between people and information.  Per Verse, the modern information professional wears many hats during the day. The old one-size fits all view of email is ill-suited to both the volume of information confronting us, and the varying of roles with which we interact with that information.  

  3. Off in Microsoft land, users are struggling with the multiple places in which information might be located -- was that information in Yammer? or in an email? or in SharePoint? or in OneNote?  Microsoft started talking about the “smart social dashboard” back in March under the name Oslo.  Per Geekwire, the idea is a “personalized, searchable dashboard that uses machine learning to present the most relevant information from their documents, messages, internal social networks and other ‘trending’ information.” Add to all this the recent purchase of Acompli by Microsoft, and you get a sense of new integrated user experience with email at its core.

So my point here -- email is cool again.  Email is being used as the center of a revised set of user experiences that have people rather than messages at their core and that uses analytics-driven intelligence to finally put the filters in place that we have been waiting for.  And all the big players are investing beaucoup resources in this.

I think there is also another angle to this renewed commitment to email.  It centers around the major platform war that is underway as the major vendors drive to the cloud, particularly the war between Microsoft and Google.  All the platform vendors are betting their future on the cloud.  At this point in the evolution of the cloud, the vendors are WAY ahead of the user community.  This is especially true at organizations that operate at massive scale, many of which are still trying to digest systems and technologies they started implementing as long as five years ago. Just ask any group of IT executives from Fortune 2000 companies what primary version of SharePoint they are currently running, and you’ll get a sense of this time lag.  

So as organizations think through their cloud strategies, what is the best wedge to get them in the door and committed to a particular cloud platform?  No one wants to spend another dime (or Euro or drachma or any other currency) on any system that is a commodity and does not add competitive advantage, and what’s the obvious enterprise system with which to start?  Email.  

That’s why the stakes as so high in the analytics-driven email user revolution and why email is suddenly cool again.

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John Mancini is President of the Association for Information and Image Management (http://www.aiim.org), blogs under the title Digital Landfill (http://info.aiim.org/digital-landfill) and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn as @jmancini77.  And the author of the aforementioned children's Christmas book, which has sold near triple digits over 10 years.

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On another note as we close out 2014...

Information Governance is one of the most hyped phrases in information management circles. Everyone was talking about it in 2014, but nobody really knows what it is. It’s boring. It’s exciting. It’s hard. It’s this. And it’s that. And to most executives, it’s confusing.

In June, we posed a series of information governance hypotheses/trends to 52 senior information management executives drawn from organizations buy and sell information technology solutions. The responses may surprise you. This free report outlines their conversations, observations, and recommendations. (Note: simple log in is requested, thanks.) http://info.aiim.org/IGreport

Download the Free Governance report.

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We'll be talking about this issue at AIIM15 in San Diego.  We have a special deal going on right now -- we'll be drawing 3 registrations who register before December 25 and we'll pay for their hotel at the Conference.  Join 750 other information leaders for 3 days focused on how to "Embrace the Chaos."

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