Email; we can’t work without it, but often we can’t work with it either. More and more, we are being bombarded with an ever increasing avalanche of email of varying quality.
For over a decade, it’s been the killer app. Now, we’re drowning in emails.
Email is a sensational tool for staying in contact with others, whether is personal or business. Email is pervasive, intruding on most aspects of our lives. And that is where we run into problems.
We haven’t really experienced an email revolution in terms of clients. Other than Evolution which introduced the concept of vFolders and Google’s excellent gmail service, which displays mail as threaded conversations by default there has been very little in the way of innovation in recent years other than client catch-up.
With social networks becoming more important and our world becoming smaller and more highly connected, it is difficult to find and keep track of email conversations.
Email is also often misused, especially in a corporate environment. Email was never designed for file transfer or as a knowledge management solution.
As our contacts grow and we become more mobile, convergence becomes another growing problem. We have personal email and corporate email. We have various computers, notebooks and mobile devices. We interact with email via non-email applications such as sales tools, social networks, CRMs, billing and invoicing, accounting, instant messaging, sms and fax gateways, the list goes on.
How do we keep track of our contacts? How can we keep track of our emails? How do we ensure we don’t accidentally email the wrong John Smith? How do we have access when and where we require it? How do we keep it secure?
None of these questions are easily solved, although some are making in-roads. Google Gmail Labs have “Don’t forget Bob” to prompt you to include Bob when emailing commonly connected recipients as well as “Got the wrong Bob?” to attempt to prevent the addition of John Smith (Client) when you mean John Smith (Supplier).
In recent years, where I’ve used Microsoft Outlook the first thing I do is install Xobni. While Microsoft has introduced the Social Connector in Outlook 2010, it leaves much to be desired. The Microsoft Social Connector, limited in features, is more targeted at simply linking email contacts with LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. It doesn’t provide email analytics, nor social network discovery.
Last week Google also launched their Priority Inbox. A great tool for keeping tack of important email. Many people, myself included, keep track of TODO items by marking them unread – this way they stay filtered at the top!
Xobni (Inbox backwards) has some neat features, some of them purely eye candy. It keeps track of what you’ve sent a contact without having to perform a manual search, their rank in how often you communicate with them, links to said social networks (LinkedIn and Facebook) as well as information hosted by Hoover (company information). There are options to connect with Microsoft SharePoint and Salesforce.com as well.
Where Xobni really comes into its own is the analytics and social network discovery.
Xobni can report how often you communicate with a contact, as well as when you are most active. You can also see how much lag there is between communications, so you can track responsiveness as well as quantity.
There is more work to be done, but it’s a great start.