The Central Desktop Blog has a companion piece to its previous piece on the advantages of using e-mail as a collaboration tool. This time around, the developer is concerned without pointing out e-mail’s alleged failings.
The first problem with e-mail is key and one that any collaboration tool should overcome — “Email is silo’ed”. When you have multiple people working on a project, each of them have pieces of the puzzle in their inboxes, but none of them has access to each other’s pieces. This is the major flaw in e-mail.
The way around this is to use collaboration software that makes it easy for individual users to share their piece of the puzzle on a project/task by project/task basis. I use a couple of collaboration tools on a daily basis that are designed to do just that and do a remarkable job of using e-mail to collaborate.
At the extreme, Central Desktop is right — there are still materials that end up staying in the inbox rather than ending up in the collaboration system, but sometimes that is also a good thing. The key is to trust the users to know what needs to go in and what needs to be left out, and, frankly, if you can’t trust people to make those sorts of decisions it’s not likely you’re going to have a successful collaborative experience regardless of the tool you’re using.
Central Desktop’s second argument is that e-mail is inherently insecure. Yawn. Every application is inherently insecure in the way that Central Desktop means it,
I argue that email is the single most vulnerable point in any organization’s security policy. It takes two seconds to send a confidential document to anyone or any group in the world.
Right, and it takes five seconds for me to download that confidential document and mail it to anyone in the world. It takes me 10 seconds to take a screenshot of that document and mail the screenshot to anyone in the world. It might take me 15 seconds to copy the document or screenshot to a flash drive and send it to anyone in the world once I’m outside the corporate network.
If I can see it, it ain’t secure — end of story.
The rest of Central Desktop’s complaints simply indicate what happens when you’re not running a collaboration tool that uses e-mail as a central collaboration method. So, we learn that “Group email is really complicated [to install and configure]”, “Email is not a document manager,” and “Email communications do not correspond priority.”
Applications that use e-mail as a central organizing tool for collaboration solve all of these problems.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Steve Krug’s maxim for web design — “don’t make me think!” The best design/user interface is one in which the user almost forgets that they’re interacting with a user interface. The e-mail collaboration tools I use come close to achieving that, whereas the sort that Central Desktop sells always require me to devote significant brain cycles to figuring out how I’m going to do this or that function.