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I’ve never bought into the belief that email must die, or is dying, or is dead (the last of these definitely isn’t true). But plenty of workers within enterprises who don’t use email—from retail clerks to warehouse staff to truck drivers—do carry mobile phones and thus are candidates for some form of enterprise collaboration.

Facebook has been the driving force in building the tool to connect those who fall outside the traditional “knowledge worker” definition, via its Workplace tool. But up to now, Workplace’s premium enterprise version required an email address as the universal identifier for users. However, as my colleague Michelle Burbick reported last week on No Jitter, Facebook has released an update that lets Workplace use an employee’s company ID number instead of corporate email address.

This may not seem like a big deal, but I’d contend it could wind up being more meaningful than you might think. Once nobody has to have an email address, nobody has to have email. That doesn’t mean that people will flee email in droves, but it does open up the possibility that email will actually decline in usage.

To me, the best comparison is voice mail (and it may not be coincidental that the second word in both services’ names speaks to their declining relevance). Almost everyone still has voice mail. Sometimes someone even calls and leaves you a voice mail message. I got one a couple weeks back. I knew I had it because my email told me, and it provided me with a .wav file so that I wouldn’t actually have to dial into my voice mail box.

But voice mail as a productivity tool has dwindled in usefulness, down to a few highly specific, maybe even idiosyncratic, use cases.

I’m not saying email will see the same scale and rate of decline as voice mail. For one thing, email remains the public-network lowest common denominator for reaching people outside your own organization. Unified communications and team collaboration apps, being walled gardens, let you collaborate fairly seamlessly with those outside your enterprise as long as they use the same platform you do. And browser-based versions of these apps do give you a common ground on which to meet with those who don’t have the same system deployed. But this space is still in transition, so I don’t think it’s clear whether such scenarios for inter-enterprise meetings on UCC platforms will really become seamless.

Ultimately, the driving force is likely to be people’s still-growing devotion to their mobile devices. Switching between apps may not be super difficult on a mobile phone, but any app that lets you do more within the app is going to have an advantage.

I’m eager to see how this all plays out, and one of the best places to see it is at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019. Our attendees tell us that team collaboration is the technology they’re most interested in, and so this will of course be among our program tracks. Registration opens soon, and I hope you’re making plans to join us March 18-21, 2019, at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando.

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