Email may soon become the new snail mail, a new Robert Half Technology survey suggests. Nearly half (48 per cent) of chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed recently said real-time workplace communication tools will surpass traditional email in popularity within the next five years.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology (IT) professionals on a project and full-time basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 270 CIOs from companies across Canada with 100 or more employees.

CIOs were asked, “In the next five years, do you think real-time workplace communication tools – for example, Instant Messaging, SharePoint, Yammer, etc. – will be more or less popular than email among employees?”

Their responses:

Much more popular……………….. 15%

Somewhat more popular……………. 33%

The same……………………….. 38%

Somewhat less popular……………. 6%

Much less popular……………….. 1%

Don’t know/ no answer……………. 7%

Robert Half Technology outlines three benefits a transition to real-time tools could have on the workplace:

– Speed. Instant messaging (IM) allows employees to have conversations
at the click of a button, without opening emails or waiting for
responses. IM also enables employees in different locations to have
real-time conversations, thus resolving issues more quickly.

– Convenience. Many programs include a host of features like IM,
microblogging, forums, and document collaboration and management. This
eliminates the need to switch between separate programs to
communicate. Not only does this have the potential to improve
efficiency, but it can increase collaboration on projects and reduce
the need for meetings.

– The social aspect. Enterprise social networking sites, such as Yammer
or Chatter, are useful for collaboration and sharing ideas and best
practices within the company. This technology also has the potential
to foster teamwork and camaraderie among employees.

“Although there is a definite place for email in the workplace, using real-time tools allows workers to solve problems and get the answers they seek much more quickly than constructing an email and waiting for a reply,” said Lara Dodo, a regional vice-president for Robert Half Technology in Canada. “IT professionals need to be sure to keep pace with new technologies – as expertise in these real-time tools can enhance their marketability and stay competitive in the job market.”