John Jennings Managing Editor Tweet Remember when email was a novelty? It wasn’t all that long ago that the world first opened up to a communication model that no longer revolved around telephones. Now, 20-30 years after most of us opened our first email account, we’ve reached another crossroads in the way people interact with each other. Communication barriers are costing organizations as much as $26,000 per employee each year, to say nothing of the 28% productivity hit we suffer just from managing email. But if email is on the way out, what’s going to take its place? The answer appears to be manifold, and for once that’s not a bad thing. After all, not every communication is created equal. Want to stay ahead of the curve? Start thinking about how you can make these alternatives work for you: Push Notifications We use technology for so much, from completing routine work tasks to entertaining ourselves to staying perpetually connected through social media and more… But with so many different platforms, who wants to spend time logging in just to see if something new has happened since the last time we opened a particular program? Push notifications help us overcome this obstacle by sending updates from our favorite applications right to our phones. Now we know at a glance whether we need to look at something right away or save it for later, and we don’t even have to take the unwieldy step of unlocking our screen. As our world becomes ever more app-centric, the amount of lag time between when an event occurs and when you know about it is shrinking at exponential rates. Imagine how many hours you might save over the course of a year if you always knew exactly what items demanded your attention and where. One of the underrated benefits of push notifications is the opportunity they afford you to cut huge chunks out of your email clutter. Visit the email preference pages in your most frequently used programs and disable all but the most important. More often than not, there’s little benefit in being informed of the same event more than once. Instant Messaging Instant messaging was texting before texting was a thing. Even if you missed the early adopter period back in the '90s, you were most likely aware of the impact it had on the digital landscape. For many, instant messaging was the first introduction to an online community that has grown to dominate our culture. As has been the case with so many groundbreaking advancements, kids drove this one. Teenagers made plans, spent hours scrutinizing the most innocuous changes to their friends’ profiles, and even fell in love – all from the sanctity of their parents’ houses. At the time, there was very little overlap with the professional world. But now? As email continues to lose its efficacy, organizations are looking for an alternative. Think about it – how many times throughout the day do you need to ask someone a quick question only to end up waiting on a reply for hours? Sure, you can pick up the phone, but if it rings through to voicemail or you get a busy tone, that’s more time wasted and you’re right back where you started. Instant messaging is the here and now of workplace communication, and it’s only just begun to take hold in the public sector. The types of organizations we work with – school districts and municipalities – tend to err on the conservative side, and concerns about distractions are always prevalent, but it feels inevitable that the push for speed and collaboration will eventually win out. Inside look: Skyward's digital media team relies on Slack for much of its day-to-day collaboration. This messaging app, founded in 2013, has grown to dominate the world of professional communications, and for good reason. Native Content “Reach them where they are” is a familiar rallying cry in the push for improved communication, and we’re finally trending in the right direction. For many years, we have relied on email for information and updates regarding the technology we use, both in our personal lives and for work. But wouldn’t it make more sense for that content to appear right in front of us when we actually need it? When new features are available to you in one of your favorite systems, would you rather read about them in an email attachment and try to remember everything on your own, or be alerted to them as you are working on something relevant? The best experience stems from the least amount of effort, and native content is quickly becoming an expectation. Native content is not exclusive to updated features, either. It’s also a great way to reach a wider audience than you might through other mediums. How many times has someone told you, “Oh, sorry, I must have missed that email”? With native content, you have the ability to put announcements, requests, and culture-building news items directly in front of your stakeholders in a place where you know they can’t miss it. Whether it’s your SIS or your ERP, there’s bound to be at least one central platform that you know your staff will have to use during the course of an average day. Imagine how convenient it would be to stick your messages right on their dashboard so it’s the first thing they see when they log in. Good luck to anybody who tries to come up with a good excuse for not seeing your communication then. What Happens to Email Now? A funny thing starts to happen when you embrace alternative communication methods: You find your inbox looking cleaner than it’s ever been, emails that would otherwise have been lost in the shuffle become much harder to miss, and you can start to focus more of your attention on the threads you’re involved in because there are fewer of them to keep track of. Imagine how much more enjoyable your vacations would be if you didn’t have to think about how much of a disaster your inbox would be when you got back. Like any project, the move to a more modern communication approach is one that needs to be managed closely in the early stages. It can be too tempting for us to fall back into our old habits, making the same mistakes with our new tools as we have with email. The importance of coaching and development cannot be overlooked. Email’s not going anywhere for now, but it’s time to stop relying on it as the be-all and end-all of digital communication. Our productivity and our budgets – to say nothing of our sanity – are just too valuable. Was this topic relevant to you? Follow Advancing K12 EdTech on Twitter or LinkedIn for all the latest updates.