Internet, E-Mail Taking Over Office Communication

The Internet, especially its email and other text-based messaging components, are now among the tools that people around the world use regularly to communicate in the office, according to a survey by Pitney Bowes.

The number of email messages sent and received increased by an average of 10 percent in the five countries surveyed (US, UK, Germany, France, and Canada), indicating the accelerating adoption of desktop and laptop personal computers as core work tools. The Pitney Bowes survey also found that the number who reported regular use of the Internet and intranets increased by an average of 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively, with an especially quick adoption rate in the US, where three-quarters of office workers surveyed reported using these tools regularly.

“Our research has found that workers find substantial value in text-based messaging and knowledge management tools,” said Meredith Fischer, co-author of the study and vice president, Pitney Bowes Inc. “In each of the countries surveyed, Internet use increased between 13 percent and 25 percent since last year. As a result of more frequent worker use of these technologies, companies in Europe and North America have the opportunity to deliver greater amounts of value to employees via internal networks, and to customers via the Internet.”

Among the findings of the Pitney Bowes survey:

  • 84 percent of American workers and 74 percent of Canadian workers report using the Internet everyday or several times a day. In Europe, 61 percent of workers in both Germany and the UK report using the Internet everyday or several times a week, compared to 55 percent in France.
  • 75 percent of American workers and 63 percent of Canadian workers report using the intranet everyday or several times a week. In Europe, 66 percent of workers in Germany, 61 percent of workers in France and 59 percent of workers in the UK report using the intranet daily.
  • US workers rely on an average of seven communications tools on a daily basis, compared to six for Canadian and UK workers, and five for German and French workers.
  • For the first time in the US and Canada, email emerged as the most used communication tool. 96 percent of workers reporting everyday or several times a week usage for both tools
  • The desktop PC is also the most frequently used communications tool in France, with 96 percent of workers reporting usage everyday or several times a week, while in Germany, the fax machine emerged as the most frequently used communications tool, with 93 percent of workers faxing daily.

According to a report by Ferris Research, there has been a 50 percent increase in corporate email messages over the past year, with another 35 to 50 percent increase expected next year. And while it may make communication more convenient, it doesn’t necessarily make it more efficient.

“On average, people spend more than five minutes to process each message,” said David Ferris, president of Ferris Research. “Do the math. By 2002, corporate staff will use over four hours each day just on email.”

As far as wireless instant messaging is concerned, research by International Data Corp. (IDC) found that it needs to negotiate a number of market barriers before it can really take off. Issues such as interoperability, difficult text entry, and market awareness are currently inhibiting growth of the wireless messaging opportunity.

“Carriers still have a fair amount of work ahead of them if they want to expand the viability of wireless instant messaging,” said Callie Nelsen, a senior analyst with IDC’s Wireless and Mobile Communications research program. “Interoperability will be key to its success. Limiting instant messaging to just one carrier’s subscribers will not likely be highly valuable to users and will not greatly increase loyalty. Itwould be much more valuable to the carriers to cooperate and offer universal instant messaging.”

In recent IDC focus groups, participants struggled to think of instances when they would use wireless instant messaging, but once they realized it could be used in situations where talking was not appropriate, the appeal of wireless IM rose instantly. Among the concerns consumers have with wireless messaging are the difficulty of entering text messages; prices for the instant messaging service; and the fear it will rundown battery life.

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