E-mail Interface Becoming Productivity Focal Point


New e-mail functionality has implications for how work process-related records are generated, organized, and kept.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Radicati Group Inc. estimates that each corporate e-mail user sent and received 171 messages per day last year, a figure expected to double by 2010. With workers spending so much time on e-mail, it is no wonder that the e-mail interface is fast becoming the main portal to other applications. “It’s hard to get people to use a different tool when what they are using is easy and comfortable,” says Mark Levitt, vice president for collaborative computing at IDC.

The fact is not lost on two major technology providers – Microsoft and IBM – who are integrating a host of new functions into the familiar e-mail window so users need not ever leave the comfort of their in-boxes.   

Microsoft Exchange server software lets Outlook users view documents, tasks, or messages in the SharePoint collaborative environment without leaving the e-mail interface. Users can see SharePoint to-do lists and appointments within the Outlook calendar and, conversely, can make changes to items in SharePoint from within Outlook.  Users can also monitor favorite websites without launching a browser. Through really simple syndication (RSS) feeds, new website content can automatically be sent directly to an Outlook folder.

The software can also integrate phone calls and voice mail messages. With integration of an Internet phone system, users can initiate phone calls and receive voice mail messages within the Outlook inbox. Microsoft expects to introduce new communication server software that will offer Internet phone technology. In addition, an instant message feature within SharePoint shows who is currently online and available. The feature, referred to as “presence,” is a big plus for those seeking a quick answer from a colleague. Many firms are interested in SharePoint as a shared drive replacement because the software offers at least minimal document management organization structure.  The ability to capture instant messages, e-mail, and voice mail in one place is an added bonus.

Meanwhile, IBM’s Lotus Notes 8, scheduled for release in mid-2007, includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software that are all accessible from within the e-mail window. Users can create documents and prepare graphs from within Lotus Notes without switching to a separate application. Notes 8 can also link up with instant messaging, offering a glimpse at who is online and available according to a green dot next to their names in a separate pane. Users can launch an instant messaging session without leaving Notes.

Notes 8 offers the ability to set up “activities,” actually a way to organize e-mails, documents, and appointments around a specific project. Notes displays a list of all activities in a separate pane, and users can drag an e-mail from the inbox into the relevant project. Team members are automatically notified of the change. Users who attempt to send e-mails with large attachments to several people will get a suggestion from the system to place the document into an activity instead.
Some records management software providers also have already begun to highlight access to RM services from within the e-mail interface.
Source: International Information Management Newswire


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