Could Collaborative Email be the next wave?

There have been a number of innovations targeted at improving Email.  For the last 2 years, I’ve been in the proverbial “basement” designing, prototyping, usability testing, redesigning, building, observing users, and rebuilding a new app called Contatta, that aims to innovate with collaborative email for business.

We’ve been relatively hush-hush about the whole thing until last summer when we finally started to take the covers off.  In a short blog post entitled, It’s Time For Something Different, I wrote:

…email is how the business world communicates. And it’s not going away any time soon.  Email itself isn’t broken. But the Inbox and workflows surrounding email sure are crappy.

Over the last 6 months, as we’ve been using pre-beta versions of Contatta internally, we’ve found that what we’ve built is really collaborative email.  Here’s why…

What Happens Today:

1. You receive an email with interesting content that you want to share with your team.  Maybe a it’s a note from a customer or partner.  Maybe it’s a newsletter.  Whatever…you just want to share it with your team.

2. So you forward to all@yourcompany.com with a message like, “I found this interesting and wanted to share with you guys.”

3. Everyone in your company now has to process that email, which sits somewhere in their Inbox along with other emails of various importance.

4. Invariably, someone replies to all with the inane, “Thanks for sharing.  I really liked that.”

5. Not to be left out or outdone, someone will reply to all with, “Me too.”

6. Which causes “the funny guy” to chime in with, “Me 3. ;-)”

7. Which causes “the angry guy” to reply to all with, “We shouldn’t be replying to all on emails like these.  It’s a complete productivity killer to have to process all of these inane replies.”

8. Which causes “the peacemaker” to reply to all with, “Angry guy, don’t freak out all over everyone.  They’re just expressing themselves.”

9. Which causes…

…and on and on it goes!

Stop replying to all, collaborate instead!

Most email clients have long since improved upon this problem by “threading” the reply chain into a single conversation.

Still, some companies have banned the use of “Reply All”, or placed rules around who can send to all@yourcompany.com.

Even still, many companies are using IM tools like HipChat, internal social networking tools like Yammer, and / or project management tools like Basecamp to move internal conversations OUT of the Inbox.

But…you still receive “share-worthy” emails in your Inbox.  And there are varying degrees of difficulty trying to get an email from your Inbox into these various other systems.

So what’s a boy to do?

Enter “Collaborative Email”

Because Contatta is also an email client that improves your email experience with features like “Relationship Buckets” for the Inbox, you’ll be able to share an email into a Workroom just as easy as if you were to forward to all@yourcompany.com.  But any ensuing discussion happens as Comments in the Workroom, not as future emails in your Inbox.

Sharing an Email in Contatta is as simple as Forwarding, but without the risk of entering Reply-to-All hell.

So I’m hopeful that “collaborative email” will be the next big wave in email innovation.

2 thoughts on “Could Collaborative Email be the next wave?”

  1. What a great post Patrick, you literally “hit the nail on the head” with this post. This is exactly what happens in my experience at the organizations I have worked at. Collaborative Email sounds very promising, looking forward to checking it out.

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