Cam Finlayson is the Director and Group Head, Client Strategy & Innovation at Social Media Group. 

When it comes to email there are typically two types of people: (i) those who generally embrace it and (ii) those who tolerate but secretly despise it.

I tend to associate myself with the latter. That said, I obviously accept that email is currently the preferred medium for online communication and use it for personal and business correspondence. However I can’t seem to shake the notion that email is antiquated medium that shares more in common with fax machines and telegrams than our modern communication tools. Not to mention that that from a business standpoint, email is cumbersome, an ineffective medium for collaboration and the source of countless hours of lost productivity.

Interestingly, while researching potential business solutions to this pesky email problem, I uncovered a third group users that I neglected to include above: (iii) those who have simply removed email as a form of personal and/or professional communication.

One example is an IBM employee named Luis Suarez based out of the Canary Islands. Luis is one of IBM’s social computing experts, who famously decided to remove email out of his day-to-day back in 2008. He now communicates with colleagues primarily via IBM’s business software platform Connections and various external social networks – including Google+ and Twitter. For Luis email only plays a very minor role, simply notifying him of meetings and the rare confidential email.

To some Luis’ decision is totally crazy, not to mention potentially career limiting. However to others he’s viewed as a genius and trailblazer. Regardless of your view, Luis has developed a solution that enforces work-life balance, while ensuring a productive work environment. And he didn’t get fired in the process.

Another high profile example that’s worth mentioning is the French technology firm Atos. With over 70,000 employees around the world, their firm plans to remove email as a form of internal communication across their company by 2014. Other tech companies including Intel have been reported to be piloting similar modeling for over a decade.

Regardless of the validity of these alternatives, the reality is that there’s a pending influx of future workers who have little use for email. These individuals have been raised with social tools and understand the limitations of legacy methods of communication. To them the solution is a no-brainer, to the old guard it won’t come easy and to the rest of us it’s just a matter of time.

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