April 3, 2012

Integrating Email and Social Networks

The premise of this post is that email is, and will remain, an important part of enterprise communication strategies, and that the most effective social platforms should integrate as seamlessly as possible with email, so that engagement can occur whether you are on email or in your activity stream. Convofy is uniquely suited to support this integrated communication environment.

Email is Clearly Overused

In spite of the cyclical speculation about email’s demise (including our own musing), few people think it’s going away any time soon. For directed communication, within organizations and beyond, email can be highly effective.

Of course, to invoke the old adage, with an email hammer in the hands of employees, all work processes begin to look like a nail. That’s because much of what we do at work involves (or should involve) communication. So it seems efficient to simply use the handy communication tool to do other things.

But email starts to become less effective as it expands to take on some roles for which it was never intended: knowledge-sharing, for example. The idea of distributing important documents or updates via email may be expedient, but it’s a very inefficient way to store that content and provide future access.

Collaboration is another bad fit for email. Imagine the scenario where you, as a project coordinator, send out some initial planning documents to the fledgling team, say with four other members.

  • You get four (maybe more) responses – two sent just to you, one sent via Reply All, and the last sent to you, with the respondent’s boss copied.
  • Some of the responses include detailed comments within the body of the email, with references to the documents you sent. “On slide 2 in the Project Overview presentation, the second bullet point should say…”
  • Some include marked up versions of your original document. In this case, you’ll have to save the attachments, load them in whatever app they were created in to review
  • Finally, you’ll then somehow have to synthesize the various comments, which you received in various forms and locations, into a new version.
  • Of course, in most cases, none of the collaborators saw how the others commented, so what you produce may be a surprise to some.
  • You’ll then go back to the communication environment – email – to submit the updates, and the process will likely be repeated.

Collaborate, and Communicate, in One Place with Convofy

This process would have been dramatically improved if you had simply been able to post the documents to a dedicated project group in Convofy, where your teammates could view them, comment on them in place (where others can also see), and then have the commentary organically appear in your communication environment – the activity stream. The process looks like this:

  • Post your note, plus attachments to your project’s Convofy group
  • Teammates can view all the documents within Convofy (no need to load Word, then PowerPoint, then Excel)
  • Comments can be made directly on the documents, where other teammates can see them. This builds a more common understanding across team members.
  • The comments are surfaced directly into the Convofy News Feed (no other platform does this), where you can be notified instantly.
  • Speaking of instantly, if your teammates are online and in the document at the same time as you, you can comment and reply in real time with our group chat capability.

The reduction in hassle and the increase in productivity for your team would be stunning.

Mixed Communication Environments Allowed

Of course, as noted above, email remains the default communication platform in most organizations. It can also be a convenient way to submit your content with a true collaboration environment like Convofy. In the example above, instead of emailing the documents as attachments to your teammates’ Inbox, you could have mailed them directly into the dedicated project group in Convofy.

But our email integration gets better! Say one of your teammates comments on a document when you are remote (and don’t have our smart phone app handy). You’ll get an email notification from Convofy, and you can reply directly, from email, to the Convofy comment. Your email reply will almost immediately appear inline, within the discussion in Convofy, as if you’d been there all along. In other words, members on email have the ability to fully participate in conversations.

Finally, if needed, Convofy can enable emailing a post, with attachments, OUT of our social collaboration environment to team members who may be remote, or perhaps hadn’t yet joined the network. This, of course, as mentioned above, is not a recommended knowledge-sharing strategy, but sometimes it’s very convenient to ensure all participants are involved.

Co-Exist!

No other social platform has the level of email integration available in Convofy. Not only do we give you the best social collaboration environment – where comments are made in-place on the relevant content, but those comments are fully integrated into the communication stream. And for others who might be relegated – temporarily or permanently – to the old-fashioned communication stream of email, they too can participate in the newfangled way to collaborate.

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