Archive for October, 2006
I spoke w/ a reporter the other day who asked me what I think the top trends in email are going to be over the next year. All of the points I mentioned were things I feel are required to combat the two biggest problems with email today – a continued increase in the volumes of email people receive and the continued shift of emails from being simple pieces of information (a replacement for memos) into time and resource intensive documents (a sort of lightweight project management system). Here are the two I felt were most important and likely to become major trends over the next year.
The first trend I see starting already is a push towards more and more software automation of email processing. At ClearContext we’re focused on automating as much of this as possible (prioritizing the email, linking the email to associated tasks/appts/etc., automatic filing and categorization of messages, and much more) for Microsoft Outlook users. A number of tools companies like Claritude are emerging to help deal with the sheer volume of email people receive – Claritude’s tool focuses on allowing people to file messages as quickly as possible. Zimbra, an open source messaging provider, has an interesting take on this with Zimlets. By allowing developers to link external data directly to emails in their system, users can do things like view driving directions for an address from within that email window. These are just a couple of examples out of numerous companies I could mention that are all addressing what I see as the same fundamental challenge – helping users process through each individual email as quickly as possible.
The second trend I think will become more and more common over the next year or two is companies putting email usage policies in place for their employees. Even the best productivity methodologies and software products can’t solve the fundamental problem of people having more to do in a day than they have time to get done. Obviously, project plans, schedules, task lists and similar tracking mechanisms help organizations manage this. However, as email becomes more and more widely used across all sorts of companies, becoming not only the default communication mode for many, but also the default mode via which to request assistance, updates, and assign tasks, the info in those tracking mechanisms is easily prone to becoming out-of-date. One major issue in the shift from phone communications to email communications by a lot of people is the fact that individuals are now able to generate far greater demands on other people’s time while using far less of their own. What do I mean by that? Well, if I want to get an update on a customer account from you over the phone that takes 15 minutes, it will take up 15 minutes of both of our time. So, I am forced to be aware of how much time I am requesting from you. On the other hand, I can in a few seconds email you requesting you to email me an update about that account. This type of thing can easily spiral out of control within companies and keep people from being able to focus on their core objectives. I predict that more and more companies will develop email usage guidelines and policies for their employees as more and more employee time gets sucked up by ad-hoc tasks coming to them over email.
Alright, time to get this blog back in action! Yes, I know I’ve said that before, but now I’m back and recharged after a great few days in Cabo for a beautiful wedding.
So far almost all of my posts here have been about email, but I also promised to write about the business of startups. I have plenty of tales from both the VC-funded and bootstrapped startup worlds, so there’s no shortage of stuff to write about. As a first item, here’s a comparison I think will be eye-opening for many people who are not directly involved in this industry.
TechCrunch and other blogs have covered the Oct 15 ’06 NYT "tell-all" article on Friendster. It’s a tale not very surprising to many of us out here in the Bay Area. But what I find more interesting than the article itself is comparing it to the Jan ’05 NYT article on Friendster – from the same author in the same publication about the same company, just a year and a half earlier, but well past the time many of the events in the second article took place. This is a common example of how stories of VC-funded startups are often marketed and spun, it’s rare to be able to compare stories like this side-by-side though.