I am an email native. It may have been the very early days of email, and much has evolved and changed since in the user interface and rich media experience, but I communicated with my lecturers at UCL via email in the mid 1980’s. After graduating I had the pleasure of working at UCL on international collaborative projects, we used email as the primary communication. My working life has been the same, with email as a core form of communication – it has been a primary working tool.
Today’s so called digital natives do not see email in the same light. Email is something:
- used to communicate with parents
- you have to have to create a social networking account
- you need to provide to online service providers (shopping etc)
- forced upon you at work.
It is certainly not seen by them as the primary communication tool. Indeed organisations such as ATOS have banned internal email to enhance working conditions. The article “Could cloud computing change how we communicate?” discusses how use of other file sharing and workflows systems are also leading to a migration away from email.
My experience is this is hard for email natives to understand, a view of “when they get into a business environment they will find out the true role of email” prevails. While other organisations (ATOS) are embracing digital natives and anticipating productivity gains.
As a person who has spent a large part of their career on working on open standards, to enable open communication, at first sight seems a backward step – communication is now between closed user groups on social platforms (Jive, SalesForce, Huddle, LinkedIn, Twitter…), what if the person you need to talk to is outside the group?
As a security professional, it could be argued the apparent demise of email is not such a bad thing. As an industry we have failed to deliver secure open email. We’ve delivered open email and we’ve delivered security architectures, protocols and standards. We have not delivered (to open groups) confidentiality and integrity of emails (see my blog on Why has encrypted email not taken off? for more on this).
The side of the business responsible for security management are rightly concerned with the proliferation of closed communication channel “how am I going to implement a retention plan” or “what happens if we get hit with e-discovery orders”. The management challenge is do you impose the use of tools you can control, with a risk of forcing use of popular tools underground. Or do you embrace the new methods of working?
Part of the attraction of closed communication systems is confidentiality and integrity is easier to deliver. By migrating from open to closed systems, it could be argued we are more secure; but right now it does not feel like that. I believe this is a reflection of the state of maturity of the cloud and social networking market. My expectation is as these systems mature, we will start to see service differentiation based on the security controls; there is evidence of this starting to happen with G-Cloud. These differentiated services will then bring with them the security management tools needed (we can see the embryos of this is the Cloud Security Alliance STAR registry. Will this lead to the further decline of email?