Collaboration. It’s the business apps buzzword-of-the-day, and it’s the thing that’s “killing” email. Except it’s not. Google “collaboration” and you’ll find over 80 million search results.

What Do You Mean By Collaboration?

Collaboration. It’s the business apps buzzword-of-the-day, and it’s the thing that’s “killing” email.

Except it’s not.

Google “collaboration” and you’ll find over 80 million search results. Among those results you’ll find what feels like 80 million new companies claiming to be the next David in line to slay email’s Goliath.

Except they’re not.

Look up the definition of collaboration and you’ll find countless variations on a theme, but essentially they all come down to this: collaboration is about working together. Something many of the collaborative claims to email’s throne say email apparently doesn’t do well. Hence, it has to die.

Except it doesn’t.

Why? Because the problem isn’t email, and the solution doesn’t appear to be found in any of the single point solutions currently out there. It’s not that email is great for collaboration, because it’s not. But it was never meant to be. It’s a communication tool, not a collaborative tool. The problem is how we try to force email to manage our tasks, files and collaborative projects – things it was never designed to do – then complain because it sucks at doing the things it was never designed to do.

That’s like condemning a hammer because it’s a lousy tool for coding software. Good tool. Wrong job.

So, to make up for emails perceived shortcomings, app after app after app has appeared on the horizon to do what email either can’t or doesn’t do well. And many of the apps are very good at task management, chat, project management, contact management, the list literally goes on and on and on.

But if the goal is working together, you’d expect the bulk of the apps to work better with other apps, especially the biggest app of all–email. That’s right, contrary to popular belief (and a lot of wishful thinking), email isn’t going away. In fact, it’s growing. It’s used by over 900 million business people everyday, and that number will soon be over a billion.

It’s the number one business app on the planet, and you almost need the Hubble Telescope to see number two.

And therein lies the collaboration conundrum: how collaborative are solutions that only solve for one area of collaboration, don’t collaborate with your other apps or people outside of your organization (like clients, vendors and partners), and most importantly, exclude and alienate a billion people for whom email is their primary communication tool?


Playing Well With Others

So, what is the real solution?


Make that “real” collaboration. Again, many of the would-be solutions in the marketplace have accurately diagnosed the problem, they’ve just failed to come up with more than what appear to be half-cures at best.

There are primarily three ways we communicate and collaborate in business today: email, chat and discussion threading and all of them have their place. The problem most apps are trying to solve for is the way many of us have been trying to get email to do all three. Then we get frustrated because we have bloated inboxes that take us hours a day to get through, and are simply inefficient and ineffective at managing tasks, files, and collaborative projects.

But it’s not enough to simply move emails into a chat environment. Chat is great for quick, stream-of-consciousness conversations, but it’s worse than email if you’re trying to go back and find information previously chatted about.

Many chat apps are also good for reducing a lot of internal email, but any app claiming to “kill,” or “eliminate” email is misleading, mistaken, and more importantly, wrong. They may cut down on internal email, but they don’t stop the flood of external email filling your inbox. And why would they try? Why would anyone intentionally cut their business off from the major line of communication and contact used by nearly a billion business people?

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

—Ryunosuke Satoro

If they’re being honest, I’d bet most people who “no longer use email,” all have an email address.

That’s because email remains great for one-to-one communication. It’s a good way to make initial contact, and it’s even good for speaking to a group as long as you can avoid the “reply all hell” that one-to-many communication invite. No, the solution isn’t to eliminate email. The solution is to turn emails into productive conversations by moving them out of the inbox and putting them where they belong.


Zen and the Art of Collaboration

Collaboration is definitely the answer, but how do we best get there?

There’s an old joke about a Zen master who walks up to a hotdog vendor in New York and says, “Make me one with everything.”

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe collaborative apps just need to become more collaborative.

Imagine how much better and easier your work life would be if, instead of a bunch of collaboration apps that didn’t communicate with each other, your email and all of your different collaboration tools worked seamlessly together.

Better yet, now imagine how much better your life would be if they didn’t have to.

Imagine what your day would be like if your inbox, task management, file management and collaboration tools were all in one place, on one platform where you and every member of your team, vendors and customers were seamlessly connected.

It’s an idea whose time has come. Just like our Zen master’s hotdog, it’s time for your collaboration tool to be one with everything.