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At Econsultancy’s recent Digital Transformation event it was suggested that businesses could improve productivity by getting rid of email for internal communications.

The theory is that doing away with email saves time as employees aren’t fighting a constant battle with their overflowing inboxes.

Also, your colleagues will think twice about sending frivolous messages or trying to kick tasks down the line if they have to get in touch by instant messenger, which is generally seen as a more personal form of communication.

And perhaps the most obvious benefit is that getting rid of email encourages face-to-face meetings, which can help to improve teamwork and ‘break down silos’ (yeah, I said it).

This is all very good in theory, but what are the alternatives to email? Well here are six alternatives for you to investigate...

Yammer

Yammer is essentially a corporate Facebook clone, so it offers a decent range of functionality that most staff members will already be familiar with.

For example you can use instant messaging, send private messages, create groups, and post things to your wall.

Apparently the likes of Ford, eBay, Deloitte and Shell have all signed up to Yammer, however I’ll admit to being slightly dubious about its usefulness.

I’ve worked at two companies that have introduced Yammer (including Econsultancy) and it failed to catch on at either of them.

The problem could be that people are simply too attached to email, but I also feel that Yammer offers too many features so it ends up adding additional complications to the working day.

Hipchat

This suggestion comes courtesy of Steffan Aquarone, CEO at mobile payment app Droplet.

In his own words:

At Droplet we were getting sick of emails and felt there must be a smarter way to communicate internally. Our culture is really important, especially with a team working across seven cities.

We chose Hipchat like a lot of startups, because it's secure and because it had web, mobile and desktop apps. People use it to IM each other, but also to have conversations in rooms that are set to specific topics.  

We even plug our website chat straight into Hipchat so anyone can help customers who come to our site.

Gmail Chat

This recently rebranded itself as part of the ‘Hangouts’ experience on Google+, but don’t let that put you off.

If your company already uses Gmail as its email client (which Econsultancy does) then Chat is a useful way of asking a quick question or having a brief conversation.

It works best if your colleagues are aware that Chat is just for quick informal conversations, so you can avoid all the formalities that kill any potential time savings (e.g. “How are you?”, “How was your weekend?”)

And if you’re not on Gmail, you can still use Hangouts by signing up to Google+.

Skype

When I first started at Econsultancy we used Skype to message each other within the editorial team.

It was extremely useful as we had staff based out of the office and abroad, plus people occasionally worked from home.

Skype has a decent instant messaging option that records your historical conversations, plus it allow group messaging, file sharing and voice calls.

My only complaint would be regarding the annoying sound effects.

Basecamp

This is more of a project management tool than a straightforward messaging platform, but it does have the desired impact of reducing email clutter.

Basecamp is designed to allow companies to more effectively manage projects by creating a centralised platform for the team to share information and deadlines.

It supports messaging, discussion forums, file sharing and task management, which may be more than you’re looking for. But then it might be just what you need.

Asana

Asana counts Dropbox, Uber and Pinterest among its clients, so it’s clearly the messaging platform of choice for trendy startups.

It’s similar to Basecamp in that it’s really a project management tool, so the functionality might be more than you need.

Asana allows users to create a central location for different projects so they can allocate tasks, send messages, share files, monitor progress and ensure they’re on track to hit deadlines.

The idea is that it alleviates inbox clutter as colleagues can access all the relevant information without asking for progress reports or sending questions over email.

It also integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive, WordPress and Google Calendar. Very handy.

Do

Do is a calendar app that allows teams to more easily deal with meetings and notify each other of upcoming tasks.

As with other tools on this list it enables users to store all their files in one central location, share meeting outcomes and post progress updates.

It’s a fairly simple tool, and one that would benefit from having an explainer video on its site to fully summarise its functionality, but it seems to be a useful way of cutting down email traffic.

David Moth

Published 16 July, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor, Head of Digital at City University London

A mention here of Trello is a must, the most useful online business tool I think I've ever used beyond email and a web browser: https://trello.com/ryanpaultaylor/recommend

about 2 years ago

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Jessica Reighard

We've had great success with Teamwork https://www.teamwork.com/

about 2 years ago

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Ed Gent

I really like the idea of this, and would love to suggest it at my workplace, but I can see a few obstacles:

1. We are a member-led services organisation, and we need the ability to forward email queries from members between departments. We have Basecamp which we use in the Marketing department, but I can't really envisage our membership department using it to manage this kind of scenario - if anyone had any suggestions, I would much appreciate it.

2. We have an instant messaging function alongside Outlook, and this is useful, but we would need to have some facility for managing member queries whilst colleagues were on leave.

I think that many organisations would massively benefit from losing internal email .

As I say, any suggestions would be much appreciated!

about 2 years ago

Adam Davis

Adam Davis, Customer Strategy Manager at Softonic

+1 for Trello, the only productivity tool I've ever used that's stuck. We use it across several teams now.

about 2 years ago

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Sahil

Brightpod's email integration is also pretty good to keep fewer emails in the inbox. See http://www.brightpod.com/brightpod-send-email-integration.html

about 2 years ago

Martin Dower

Martin Dower, CEO at Connected-uk.com LLP

We've used, and still use, many of those. We're massive fans of Basecamp (used it since 2008), we tried Yammer but found Podio (www.podio.com) was better in almost every way.

Trello got a look in but we found it was limited once you scaled up its use to a larger agency. Client adoption was hard, too soproblematic if you are properly transparent. Brightpod seems to be up and coming.

After nearly 15 years tied to offices, we managed to become entirely location agnostic using many of these tools - they offer so much more than just productivity. Here is an article written early this year covering most of the apps and services we used https://www.connected-uk.com/2014/01/what-is-the-best-project-management-app-for-a-digital-agency/

about 2 years ago

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Karthikeyan Murugaiah, Administrator at Thangam Educational trust

I am using the LAN chat software Output messenger to give the freedom to the workers to chat and share ideas between them. It makes me really felt the difference in the work place and in the workers. Also the other features like Mail, Notes and the Remainder made the other works easy. Now I really feel happy that I have invested in the right product. If you have an idea of buying a LAN messenger I really suggest you to go with the Output Messenger.

8 months ago

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