It's Never a Binary Thing
The "email killer" is almost certainly a mythical beast, at least when it comes to the enterprise.
Everybody loves to hate email, but increasingly, what many people say they hate more are the "email killers" of which Slack is the best-known. Tech gurus like Walt Mossberg have recently excoriated these new collaboration/messaging apps and others for the way they proliferate notifications, creating a clutter that overwhelms anything that email ever imposed on its users.
Nobody expects Slack and its ilk to go away, and the freemium/bypass-IT model is a great way to scoop up a ton of long-tail users in small businesses and departments, and get to that famous 3 million-user mark that Slack boasts. But over the past week, we've seen a few interesting indications of where enterprise messaging/collaboration may be headed, and it's summed up in the word that's so often our default setting: hybrid.
In the next-gen enterprise-messaging area, Cisco has clearly been the most aggressive and vocal of the vendors, and used last week's Cisco Live event to show off the progress it's making in positioning its Spark collaboration system as a platform. No Jitter offered coverage of Cisco's announcement of Spark integration with video, and an integration with bot vendor Gupshup. Each of these moves, in its way, shows Spark becoming as much a platform as an application, allowing enterprises to build collaboration systems that fit their unique business needs. Slack is trying much the same platform move.
But here's the kind of move you probably won't see from the likes of Slack: Cisco has been trialing something called Spark Hybrid Call Service, and in this No Jitter post, channel partner Bernhard Albler describes how the service links on-premises Cisco UC assets with the Spark Cloud that powers all that cool new Spark functionality and platform integration. It's an investment protection and migration story... you know, the kind of thing that enterprises tend to care about.
Another news item came out of last week from the Worldwide Partner Conference of Cisco's chief communications/collaboration rival, Microsoft. Facebook's CIO, Paul Campos, appeared on stage to announce that the social networking giant was adopting Office 365; he even enthused, "Microsoft got cool again." As was noted, however, Facebook won't be using some of the collaboration elements of Office 365, such as Skype for Business and Yammer, given that Facebook is a longtime user of its own Facebook at Work collaboration platform, which it is rolling out in a large-scale public beta to enterprises around the world. (If you haven't already, check out No Jitter editor Beth Schultz's interview with Monica Adractas, the newly appointed Americas region director for Facebook at Work.)
What I found particularly interesting were the comments that Facebook's Campos made about email in a Wall Street Journal piece previewing the Office 365 announcement. WSJ quoted him as saying, "Facebook at Work doesn't end the need for email. It's not a binary thing." WSJ also cited research from the Radicati Group predicting 5% annual growth for email through 2020.
As a result, Facebook is looking to Office 365 for email and calendar, and presumably will supplement that with Facebook at Work, as it's been doing. This short blog post from management consultant Michael Sampson even suggests that this strategy for serving up the dog food at Facebook is actually intended to strengthen the Facebook at Work sales pitch to a world of enterprises that are at least as heavily reliant on email (usually Microsoft's) as Facebook itself is.
So the "email killer" is almost certainly a mythical beast, at least when it comes to the enterprise. Enterprises need to protect their investments in equipment, software, and business processes. Computer code may be binary (at least for now), but enterprise technology adoption rarely is.