Email is broken

4 Things Broken With Email and How To Fix It

I’ve been around the tech space for a while – so long, in fact, that I remember thinking how cool it would be if everyone could send emails to people at another company. I used my first email system as an internal communication tool in 1988.  By 1994 email was the killer app of the web.

Well, it’s not hot anymore! It’s bloated, it’s not strategic, and it’s gotten to the point where email actually makes communicating worse.  

Over the past two and half decades, email has gone from blessing to curse. What used to be an awesome innovation now takes over our lives. The world sees more than two hundred billion business emails every day, or an average of 113 per business user. The average worker spends 28% of their day on email alone. Add IM, chat, phone, social media, and face-to-face, and the average business person is spending 70-80% of their day communicating. That leaves little time for anything else, like thinking.

The biggest problem is that my most important team communication is buried in my inbox alongside less important, even unimportant emails.  There might be 50 important emails hidden amongst 150 not very important emails. Email just no longer works for important communication!

How did we land in this sad state of affairs? We tried to force email to do things it just can’t. Here are a few examples of why email consumes our lives:

  1. We try to use it for collaboration. The dreaded “Reply All hell” email threads are about the least strategic form of communicating there is. Damnit, I wish I could opt out. Where is the unsubscribe button?  People should have to have a license to send a Reply All email!
  2. We try to make it our task management system. We leave emails in our inbox to remind ourselves to do something. We even forward those email to ourselves!
  3. We attempt to make it a file storage and sharing service. We search through emails to find attachments.  Is this the file? Is it that one? Is it the latest version? It often comes down to: “would you send me that file attachment again because I can’t find it?”
  4. We default to email as a contact manager. I hope that guy/gal had a signature in their email because I need their phone number right now!

Email can't be found

The only way we’re going to get out of email hell is to stop trying to make it into something it’s not. Buried inside our Inbox is our most important team communication. Finding the communication that is actually important slows an entire organization to a crawl.  

The complexity of business today is too great for email. Everything moves much faster. This is why products like Slack, Hipchat and Ryver are so img-whyryver2popular; they pull your most important communication out of email. You KNOW everything that is important is no longer in email. Email is still important, but you don’t live there anymore. You only visit. All your team communication is in one place and no longer buried.

The world of business is collaborative. Recent popular books like “Team of Teams,” “Holacracy,” and “Team Genius” are all trying to help deal with with the new complexity we all face. Every company needs a managerial nervous system that allows every stakeholder to have insight to the overall mission. Every stakeholder needs to be be able to have a say. Team communication needs to be pushed to the outer edges of every organization.

Stakeholders include employees, customers, partners, vendors and advisors. Every business needs to be a “team of teams.” Everyone needs to be able to “connect the dots” with information. We don’t need LESS information. We need more. Lots more! But that information has to be signal, not noise.  The old adage of “need to know” is changing to “most everyone needs to know.” When people know what is going on, powerful things start to happen. Answers and insights can come from unexpected people. Information can prevent big problems before they happen.  Being FAST can help close deals your competitors can’t.

The best team communication software allows a company to communicate far more without overwhelming. Products like Ryver and Slack are replacing email for our most important communication. Over the next decade every company will stop using email for all team communication. No one will be able to compete and survive without it. By 2025 over 1 billion business people will have stopped using email for time critical communications. Think about that for a moment… email won’t go away, but it will fade into the background.

And wouldn’t it be nice to go on a vacation without it?


Pat Sullivan

Was co-creator and CEO of ACT!, The Best Selling Contact Manager. Founder and CEO of SalesLogix The Leading Mid Market CRM Two time winner of Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Co-founder and CEO of Ryver, The Best Team Communications that is FREE.