From e-mail to social, why’s it so tough?

Since the advent of social there has been so much talk about “the death of e-mail”, but as we all know it ain’t dying and in fact by many counts is growing in popularity with websites like www.emailisnotdead.com sharing a variety of stats on the subject. However when we look inside enterprises we know that many are endorsing more transparent ways of working, are looking at approaches which allow them to more effectively leverage the collective wisdom of their people, and are moving towards being more organizationally agile, networked, and collaborative. They are looking towards a future where work is more open and transparent.

This drive towards openness is somewhat at odds with e-mail which is a more closed and intimate communication channel. However, that doesn’t mean that e-mail is dead and will be replaced with more social channels. Several years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Email vs. Social Streams? Is that the right question to be asking?” where I suggested that it’s not either/or, but simply a case that we need just-in-time flexibility. We need a system that supports mobile or desktop and allows flexibility of communication depending on my needs at any point in time; e.g. mode (voice vs. text), latency (phone vs. e-mail), or intimacy (individual vs. group).

But I digress. The point of this post was to suggest that there may be ways of using analytics to make this transition from e-mail to social (and vice-versa) easier.

Over a year ago we launched a system, called the Personal Social Dashboard, which measures individual engagement and reputation on the enterprise social network; in our case this is IBM Connections. It has received broad support from employees with one one complaint; it didn’t provide personalized recommendations for actions you can take to improve your social engagement.

We’ve now added recommendations (I’ll write more about this in a later blog post) by identifying categories of traits, measuring individuals against those traits, and then tailoring recommendations specific to their personal needs.

It turns out that helping people be more effective at engagement in general, be that social or e-mail, is important and recommendations can provide a way to help with this. If I e-mail regularly with certain people, maybe I might want to connect to them on Connections? Or maybe an e-mail train with a large distribution might be better suited to being moved over to social? Or perhaps files that I often share via e-mail might be good candidates for adding to Connections files? Or perhaps there are communities that I might be interested in joining by virtue of my e-mail interactions with their members? Or perhaps there is content I might want to see, specifically if I have a meeting with the person who created it or a person who is engaged with it. These are just some examples of the recommendations that could be tailored to this challenge of moving between e-mail and social; and when combined with single click actions could provide a really easy way to blend e-mail and social; and to move back and forth between the two.

With all this talk about working in the open, do folks need help to be more effective at flipping back and forth? Could personal contextual recommendations, with single click actions, help?

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