Welcome to the age of the 140-character dialogue at work. According to technology research firm Gartner, email will be replaced by social networking applications such as Twitter as the primary vehicle for business communication for 20% of employees by 2014.
This transition will be dictated in large part by demographic shifts, as younger workers predisposed to communication through Twitter, text messaging and Facebook take increased roles within corporations.
"In the past, organizations supported collaboration through email and highly structured applications only," said Monica Basso, Gartner's research vice president. "Today, social paradigms are converging with email, instant messaging, and presence, creating new collaboration styles."
Those lines will only further blur between different modes of communication in the cloud, according to Basso, with products that were once separate now being increasingly converged.
"The rigid distinction between email and social networks will erode," Basso added. "Email will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering, while social networks will develop richer email capabilities."
Gartner's perspective echoes similar sentiments heard recently in the MIT Technology Review, which reported that mobile devices are allowing workers step outside corporate firewalls and communicate and collaborate on their own chosen software apps.
According to Gartner's report, business email providers like Microsoft and IBM will include links to both internal and external social networks in their services. The report also anticipates that calendars and contacts will become increasingly social and shared across the cloud.
As a result, hybrid software systems with both on-site and off-site services are expected to grow dramatically in the coming years, according to Gartner. It also predicts that RIM and Microsoft will have an 80% share of business email services by 2012.