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March 4, 2012

Do Social Technologies Cause Less Email?

by deirdrewalsh

Email. Email. Email.

Last week, I got to geek out about #socbiz with Michael Brito, SVP of Social Business Planning @EdelmanDigital.

During our conversation, I talked about an interesting question that was posed on the community this week by Esther Goh “does social actual decrease email or does it just move the same conversation to a new technology?” Esther was referencing a Jive customer survey we released last year that showcased the following employee engagement benefits:

Here are my thoughts: according to IDC, the average knowledge worker spends 13 hours per week writing and reading emails. That represents an annualized cost per employee of $21,000. This number likely stretches higher in higher-paying organizations or verticals, and for higher job roles. There are even indications the IDC numbers are quite conservative. A survey of 1,000 workers in the United Kingdom by Star, a provider of on-demand computing and communication services, found that employees spend, on average, 32.5, 8-hour work days a year on email alone.

The benefits of social tools are undeniable. Based on sheer adoption numbers (ie. hundreds of millions of Facebook users ), consumer social platforms have clearly illustrated a tremendous ROI in terms of allowing consumers to more easily communicate with friends and family and share information. For example, my best friend posts 100s of pictures of her baby on Facebook. Sometimes, she will send out an email with a link to the photo-album. This shows that social doesn’t eliminate email, but changes its purpose– it’s not a new message just different.

Reducing time spent by 27% would then represent a cost savings of greater than $5,000 per employee, per year. Beyond hard dollar savings, reducing email has other beneficial effects.

Social platforms for enterprise logically extend these capabilities. IMO, I don’t think the survey would be fair if it didn’t take into consideration things like email notifications so I would hope that the 27% is actually less email into your inbox, net of the alerts.

Social technologies, like Jive, make information more accessible and more searchable by the entire organization and breaking down information silos that lead to related inefficiencies. So it’s more than just a technology swap (ie. Email vs. announcement in a Jive group). Social actual helps organizations be more productive.

Social isn’t just a replacement for traditional communications either. For example, survey respondents also noted that meetings work better in conjunction with social business tools due to social mechanisms for capturing unstructured information through tags and other collaboration tools and annotation tools.

Even though we are now in the Post-Dilbert era, jokes about corporate life and copious time wasted sitting in unnecessary meetings and replying to useless email chains still ring true for many employees and senior managers alike. Social business appears to alleviate and moderate these woes and not just transfer them from one technology to the next.

What are your thoughts on this common debate?

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