When Thierry Breton, chief executive of Atos, said the IT services company would ban use of internal email by 2014, it caused a sensation across the media, with commentators describing the idea as either “brave”, “stupid” or doomed to failure.
But in fact, a number of companies have been quietly moving away from using email as the primary way of communicating within the company.
The ability to track email is increasingly becoming a turn-off. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in an age of heightened regulation, bankers are eschewing email in favour of less traceable forms of communicatons, such as hand-written notes. Whether or not James Murdoch, executive chairman of News Internatinal, read a crucial email revealing the extent of phone hacking at the business has become a key issue at the Leveson inquiry into press standards, and government officials have shied away from using internal email for communications on sensitive subjects, as these can be made public through Freedom of Information Act.
However, for many companies, it is simply that email is seen as inefficient. “We believe email is fundamentally unproductive, you need to sift through too many documents and things get lost,” says Leerom Segal, president and chief executive of Klick, a Canadian digital marketing company. “It has no prioritisation, no workflow, and assumes that the most important item is the one at the top. My business partner became so frustrated with how dumb email was, that 14 years ago he began to build better tools for us to manage workflow.”
Klick, which has over 200 staff, now uses email only to communicate with external clients, while internally all messages go through Genome, its self-designed system which enables users to monitor tasks in a workflow. The programme works so well that Klick is now receiving inquiries from clients interested in installing the system in their own offices. The company has 10 employees working full-time on developing the network.