Social collaboration: is the Zero Email Company there yet?

Almost exactly one year to the day, Benoit Seys wrote a paper and post on the ‘Zero Email Company’, mentioning the new technologies and ways of internal collaboration, based on social networks (a.k.a. social collaboration).

Have things evolved since then? A new report by McKinsey, “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies”, sheds more light.

The communication evolutions from email to social are ongoing. In October 2011, comScore noticed how communications are shifting from email and instant messaging to social media as the chart from the McKinsey report shows.

communications are shifting from email and instant messaging to social media

The report focused on the general population. However, changing communication paradigms occur in the organization as well.

How social collaboration increases productivity

McKinsey estimates that implementing social technologies, along with the necessary cultural and managerial changes, can increase the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25%. Of the 65% of his work time that the average interaction worker spends on collaborating and working with others, approximately 28% goes to reading, writing and answering email.

By shifting communication from email, which is a one-to-one medium, to social platforms, efficiency can be improved in many ways McKinsey reminds us:

  • Messages are conveyed more rapidly across the organization.
  • Messages are more easily searchable.
  • Information that can be used by more people within the company does not sit in an isolated environment but is available for anyone who could use it.
  • New employees or team members need less time to be informed and know what their peers do.

Social collaboration will happen but how?

McKinsey estimates that 30% of current total e-mail could be moved to a social collaboration platform, freeing up more time for other tasks of the interactive worker, as shown in the second exhibit.


productivity social media


The overall impact can be quite significant, especially since McKinsey found that “interaction workers—employees whose work requires complex interactions with other people and independent judgment—are the fastest-growing category of employees in advanced economies”.

Is the Zero Email Company there yet? No. And maybe what we’ll see in the end is an integration of different communication and social collaboration platforms.

However, taking into account shifting communication patterns among both consumers and information workers and seeing the benefits of social collaboration and recent market evolutions, it’s clear that the evolutions Benoit wrote about last year are happening right now.

The question is how it will evolve and what the best ways to make it happen are. Let us know in the BT Let’s Talk LinkedIn Group.

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