Email is not dead, it just needs reinventing

Bostjan Bregar, founder and CEO of 4th Office, explores the future of email communication.

Email is the premier form of online communication for everyone over the age of 25. While there has been a recent spread of newer concepts such as Slack, email usage figures prove that the numbers of email accounts is only set to grow – a predicted 5.59bn by 2019 according to the Radicati Group (2015).

But for the forthcoming generation known as Gen Z about to head into workplaces, it has been speculated that this form of communication is in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Social media, apps, instant messaging and 140-character tweets are the go-to communication channels for this generation and the Millennials that will follow them.

So while it might be tempting for startups and incumbent businesses to embrace other internal messaging systems such as Slack and Yammer to stay current, all they’re really doing is opening yet another channel of communication.

Adding to the ‘noise’ is not the answer. Instead we should be looking at the one tool that has stood the test of time; email. It is still the single biggest open network in the world, and holds the most IP of any network today, much of what we cherish and value in our business and family lives is held within it.

One of the problems is that younger people have not yet needed to embrace email and are at risk of moving away from this solid and steadfast communication medium in favour of chatting apps and multimedia messaging tools.

But I can understand why they do shy away from email. In its traditional form email has been forced on people and organisations for over forty years with barely any adaptations or evolutions, so it’s no surprise that tech fluent millennials don’t consider it a modern form of communication.

Re-evaluating the use of email in startups and companies

Startups and companies need to re-evaluate and reform how email is used. When paired with exciting technological advances such as artificial intelligence, it can be organised around the people and teams who use it rather than dominate them.

And who better to help lead the revolution of this solid form of communication than Gen Z and Gen Alpha behind them. These groups, more than any other that preceded them, have the digital insight, coding and technological knowledge and the creative and youthful mindset to fiddle and disrupt rather than accept the status quo.

This means that by using both AI and their own tweaks, plugins and rules, they can eliminate inbox noise to flag up the important stuff that needs dealing with quickly – and reduce the surge of stuff that doesn’t matter.

This email revolution isn’t just necessary to improve efficiency in your work place, much more than that the way we communicate is fundamental for our mental health.

The incessant desire to continually check messages is putting people under immense pressure. It’s no wonder France plan to bring in a law to stop professional communication outside of working hours. The always-on culture is taking its toll on all generations. Particularly those clicking between multiple messaging apps and programmes.

We need to strip back and focus on one core digital communication tool and reinvent it for the modern working world.

Email has survived this long, contains unprecedented IP and has all the necessary ingredients to become smarter and evolve. Key to this is the way we receive and read messages. Focusing on the people who send the messages rather than when they send it gives you have a much more streamlined way of working.

Amongst the qualities of Gen Z, one is the ability to adapt and change very quickly, so I’m confident they will be happy to take the strength of this core online communication method and mold and manipulate it to suit their needs.

Technology is ever-changing. Email needs to change. But it’s still as much a part of the future as it has been a part of the past.

If you’re interested in artificial intelligence, find out more by reading edition 11 of our popular tech magazine – The Artificial Intelligence Issue.