Conversation sits at the center of collaboration. While most of our systems and business processes focus on data and documents, the reality is that conversation is “where the rubber meets the road” and where the context behind the data and the documents happens. It’s why there are dozens of mainstream messaging applications, with more being added every year.
Within the enterprise, however, email is still king. It serves as both a conversation tool and a transport mechanism for information assets, despite years of solution providers telling us that “email is dead.” Email is often our first line of communication, a quick and easy way to connect one-on-one or one-to-many, providing a starting point to more detailed interactions within collaborative platforms, such as SharePoint, Yammer, and Microsoft Teams.
Sure, within Office 365, Microsoft Teams is on the rise. Microsoft is promoting teams as “the hub” for collaboration because it offers users the ability to bring together contextual data, documents, and conversations into a single space.
When Microsoft announced Teams at the end of 2016, it was immediately heralded as the end of email. Of course, these claims were like the stories told during the rise of social networking platforms, usually spread by people who did not understand the complex use cases within the collaboration ecosystem or the role of SharePoint in a Teams world. With the launch of any new technology, it is common to see some displacement of existing tools. However, once the “new car smell” is gone, users quickly adjust to the new technology and figure out where these new tools fit into their business processes.
Email Usage Continues to Rise
In an ebook that I co-authored last year (SharePoint Transformed: A Game Plan for Digital Workplace Heroes), we shared some interesting data points about the continued growth of email. According to the Radacati Group, email has continued to grow by 4.5% more per year, with no sign of it slowing down. What this research shows is that the differing collaboration technologies (email, social, document collaboration) do not replace each other, but are adopted in addition to each other. What this shows is that end users view email as serving different use cases than other collaboration solutions, like SharePoint, Yammer, and Microsoft Teams.
However, according to AIIM.org research on email governance, many organizations fail to properly manage email. Email capture can be critical both for the context and value of the conversations within, and the information assets being sent between people. To some degree, this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how email is being used, and the value the platform provides to the organization.
Plugging the Process Gaps
Business processes and the technologies we use are constantly evolving and changing, just as our business requirements are constantly changing. The question we need to continually ask (and validate) is whether we are adequately capturing our knowledge assets across every tool and platform. As any end user can attest, finding the right data, at the right time can be incredibly difficult. Whether your portfolio of solutions includes email, an intranet, social networks, and/or document management tools, every organization should proactively manage their intellectual property across all of them.
The ways in which we work have evolved, but our habits and processes for knowledge management have been slow to respond to these changes. We might wish the most common SharePoint out-of-the-box experiences will support properly managing our most business-critical information assets, but organizations must make the tools work the way employees want to work – in context.
Every time we switch between tools, we lose some productivity. When people are working in Outlook, reviewing and answering emails, that’s is the user experience they want to stick with. Working “in context” means capturing and classifying emails and attachments to SharePoint needs to happen right from the inbox. We can support this by adding a necessary tool to remove the context-switching to make it easy to find the data that person needs, or to rapidly save critical information, while staying in the flow of the user experience.
Within our email applications, for example, we can improve our knowledge “leakage” by first recognizing the importance of email as a knowledge platform, and second by streamlining the integrations between email and SharePoint. Want to improve the quality and “completeness” of your data? Provide better methods for data capture within email, streamlining the connection between platforms and reducing the cost of context switching, which can have a direct impact on end user adoption.
Simplifying Email Capture In-Context
One of the most common methods is to allow users to save emails directly to SharePoint from Outlook, whether online or on premises. This can be tied into using governance and compliance features within Office 365, once organizations take the configuration steps to classify the right information, in the right way.
Colligo offers one of the leading email capture products on the market, allowing users to label, classify, and set retention policies within the flow of their daily activities, and within context of their daily email activities. When your knowledge management activities are provided in-context to the tools and conversations that your end users rely on every day, there is a dramatic decrease in information leakage.
Research shows that when conversations and information sharing happen in-context (without having to switch between different tools, or even browser tabs), users are more likely to apply metadata and labels, and to follow security and compliance policies and procedures. As a result, there are fewer instances of security breaches and improper remediation of sensitive information.
Ultimately, reducing context switching within our core collaboration platforms generates business value:
- It improves the capture of data, documents, and conversations
- It improves the metadata, labels and classifications, and therefore the search/discovery process
- It improves the user experience, which increases the level of engagement
- More people using the platform and less time cleaning up the data means more time spent innovating
Within knowledge and information management circles, the value of our data is generally understood. However, within the enterprise, finding the right data at the right time can be incredibly difficult. Most knowledge is lost when organizations fail to properly capture and manage email respecting the critical need to stay in-context.
Thanks again to guest author, Microsoft RD & MVP, Christian Buckley. #CollabTalk