Email has changed the way we communicate in the 20th century. Prior to email the main ways an organization communicated was by memo, letter, or verbally. These usually required the communicator to plan their communication and formally compose it before sending out a memo. Although this planning and editing helped to eliminate mistakes and gave the communicator time to think about the content of the communication it was not always fast. Email is one solution to this problem, giving people in an organization an instant way to communicate. This relatively new technology has many positive and negative aspects and not everyone's opinion is the same on how effective it is. Lack of written rules on how to send out internal email communication has ruined more than a few careers from people being excessively informal, or sending out an inappropriate communication in the heat of the moment. I will try to explore if email technology is really an asset.
In terms of business communication, email is a recent tool. Email is most simply defined as a short electronic message; it is a method of exchanging digital messages from one electronic source to another. "It is a more up to date method of transmitting data, text files, digital photos, and audio and video files from one computer to another over the internet."(thinkquest). Email did not become popular until 1990 and since then it has become a major business and personal communication tool.
Email began in the early 1980’s using simple technology at the University of California at Berkeley, where the BSD Unix operating system was developed. Eric Allman created the sendmail program, which has become the most commonly used SMPT server on the Internet. "In 1988, Vinton Cerf arranged for the connection of MCI Mail to the NSFNET through the Corporation for the National Research Initiative (CNRI) for "experimental use", providing the first sanctioned commercial use of the Internet." (Crocker, n.d., p.1). In 1993, American Online (AOL) and Delphi began to connect email systems to the Internet. This began a global standard and the large-scale adoption of Internet email.
By 2002 reports had come out that email had grown to be the second most popular communications channel, following after the number one channel of voice. By 2006, the predicted number of emails sent each day was 36 billion. At the current time, the amount of email sent out in a day is so large that it is hard to find anyone willing to compile the data; it has become a way of life. The majority of companies in the United States and developed countries use some form of email.
Typing an email can be a fast, convenient, way to get your message to an individual. It saves time because it is faster than running around and arranging meetings with numerous groups. In an age where we want to “run faster, fly faster, access faster, and click faster” (Gitlin, 2002, p. 73) the speed of email is an important tool. It can save money and resources by cutting back on the use of paper. It cuts labor costs because if a group of employees take five minutes to read an email instead of taking 15 minutes to go to a meeting, productivity increases measurably. “An advantage of email and email newsletters it that they can reach a widely dispersed population simultaneously” (Gillis n.d.,p. 265).
The delivery of a message simultaneously eliminates the need to worry about who receives company information first.
Email can be better for our environment than the office memo. It can eliminate the need to print numerous memos, saving trees and environmental pollution. Many people now post on the bottom of their email reminders such as, ‘please consider the impact on natural resources before printing this email.’ With the ability to archive important emails and pull them up instantly there is little need to ever print out a memo. With today's new green movement this a great place for organizations to start moving towards a cleaner, more environmentally friendly, way to do business.
There are many negatives to email communication. Some people feel it is impersonal and at times, it is hard to get your message across. This stems from the fact that people do not know the demeanor, body language, or attitude of the sender. What may be a simple reminder such as do not forget to send in your monthly forms, interprets as, ‘they think I am an idiot, and will not remember to send in my forms.’ With email being less personable than face-to-face communication, the sender is not able to take into account the attitude of the receiver. It the receiver is in a bad mood they may interpret messages as hostile even if they are not intended to be that way.
Over-communication can be an issue with email messages. If each department feels, they can send out a companywide email each day suddenly employees are receiving 20 or more emails a day. At this point, they are not productive because they are spending the day reading email. “Efficiency and productivity were problems for slaves, not philosophers” (Postman, 1993 p. 25)and people can essentially become a slave to their email. Even worse, they may quit reading the email communication and just delete it, missing important information. Some people over-communicate by hitting the reply all button every time they reply to an email. Sometimes hundreds of people get to find out that the sender cannot attend the meeting because their child has a soccer game. These types of emails are annoying and time consuming to delete.
Email has brought a completely new avenue for communication into the organization. It has opened up the global market giving organizations an easy and inexpensive way to communicate with overseas offices. Applying new laws and rules to society and office protocol comes with this adoption of this new technology. Email will never completely replace the traditional paper memos and letters, but it will help eliminate the environmental stress of printing communications. With proper training on how the technology works and awareness of the ramifications of an inadequately written email, employees in an organization will be successful in utilizing email as a communication tool.
Crocker, D. (n.d.), Email History. Retrieved from http://www.livinginternet.com/e/ei.htm
Etchells, M. (2008). Exposed: Email's worst habits [IT email management]. Engineering & Technology (17509637), 3(9), 58-60. doi:10.1049/et:20080908
Gitlin, T. (2002). Media Unlimited: How the torrent of images and sounds overwhelms our lives. New York, NY: Holt.
Marsters, K. (n.d.), The-Pros-and-Cons-of-Email-in-the-Business-World, Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Pros-and-Cons-of-Email-in-the-Business-World&id=1211019
Postman, N. (1993). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York, NY: Vintage
Thinkquest (n.d.) The History of Email, retreived from http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00047/email.htm