Reports that technology giant Atos is to phase out internal email as a means of communication is a classic case of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater,’ as the old adage goes. Email, by far the most pervasive communication platform in organizations with over 95% usage according to Forrester Research, is not going away any time soon. 

Getting people to use new social and collaboration tools is an uphill battle. While early technology adopters readily embrace new social and collaboration tools, a recent Forrester Research study reports dismally low adoption rates among typical users, with only 3-4% of workers using microblogging technologies while 8-15% use social networks.

Expecting staff to become more productive by introducing them to new communication tools – whilst at the same time removing a familiar system – is a highly disruptive work strategy that can alienate all but the most adventurous technology adopters. It just doesn’t make sense for most people.

Another problem with this strategy is introducing another tool for internal communications, while continuing to use email to communicate with the rest of the world – it’s a total non-starter.

For example, what happens when you need to send a message to someone in the company AND someone outside the company? The idea of adding ANOTHER communication platform goes completely against the trend of reducing the number of communication modalities, which is the direction of the market.

Instead of ditching email, I recommend using email as a starting point for enhancing work conditions and business performance. Building social and collaboration capabilities into peoples’ familiar tools and workflows is a great way of easing them into new technologies.

The effectiveness of a social email approach is borne out by a recent uSamp survey of more than 1,000 IT users, in which 78% of business users report they are more likely to use collaboration and social business tools if they are accessible in a familiar work environment such as email. 89 percent publish documents and/or emails on SharePoint when they can do so from within email, a 75% increase over those using the standalone SharePoint interface.

Much as I respect the chief executive of Atos, email is not going to go away. It’s not a trend, but an integral part of modern business communications. You simply cannot afford to remove it from the business toolset.

Bottom line? Atos’ problem doesn’t stem from using email – it stems from the inefficient use of email as a communications medium. Make the process more efficient and you dramatically improve staff productivity – while they stay firmly within their comfort zone.