Overflowing email boxes are a symptom of employees using it for unrepeatable processes that have no workflow templates, according to IBM general manager Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal Alistair Rennie.
"Most of the stuff that goes on email are things that don't have repeatability, where people have to get together and collaborate," he said.
While workers know exactly what they use an enterprise resource planning tool for and won't use it for other tasks, email seems to get stuck with all the collaboration processes, whether it's the best way of dealing with them or not.
It is solving this issue, and not finding out how staff can get through more email, that is preoccupying companies, according to Rennie.
"They're not interested in solving the problem 'how do I manage email better'. That's a symptom, not a problem," he said. "The real problem we're talking to customers about is how do they solve this unstructured work problem. I don't think anyone ever thinks there's going to be a 25th hour in the day for mail."
What needed to occur was for collaboration workflows to be worked through, including social concepts instead of linear asynchronous document exchange, he said.
Intel director interaction and experience research Genevieve Bell believed that this might require more face-to-face meetings, adding that being in the same room with someone did wonders for communications.
RIM Australia and New Zealand managing director Adele Beachley scoffed at that idea. She pointed to increasing revenues for telcos from data usage on mobile phones and the ever-expanding smartphone shipments.
"In terms of going to the 'way back machine' on either email, or email usage and inbox, [it's] not going to happen," she said.
This is the penultimate instalment in the bite-sized TechLines series on the future of email debate videos.