The Evolution of Business Communication: From Emails to Integrated Collaboration Platforms

edited August 2023 in Business

Business communication entails the sharing of information between people within and beyond a company. From making proposals to processing orders, and from discussing ideas to reaching agreements with clients, communication dominates the business scene. The medium of communication, therefore, is key to the efficiency of a business.

A history of communication and business communication tools

Back in ancient times when digital or paper-based communication did not exist, there was no option but to communicate in person. Human messengers were needed for external communications, which often entailed dreadfully long journeys just to convey a single message. Imagine ancient Greece, where Pheidippides was said to have diligently run around 42 kilometers from a town called Marathon all the way to Athens, just to deliver the news that the Greeks had won the battle of Marathon. Animals, such as homing pigeons, had also been trained as mail carriers across cultures.

Fortunately for us, stories such as those of Pheidippides and pigeons are long in the past. Modes of communication have rapidly developed since the industrial revolution; in the growing world of global commerce, businesses simply cannot afford for communication to not be instantaneous.

Over the years, such instantaneity has taken multiple interesting forms:

The Telegram  

Telegrams were popular in the 1800s all the way up to the early 1900s. They were sent over telegraphs, which meant that messages were transmitted over wires with the help of electric signals. Due to the technology, telegrams for business were restricted to shorter, important, and more urgent messages.

The Telephone

When it first made its way to the market, wealthy companies saw its potential and largely acquired it, although it wasn’t until a few decades later after the 1900s when the telephone became more ubiquitous in the workplace and households. This was a step up from the telegram– business information exchange became much more instantaneous, convenient, and efficient.


In 1964, the American company Xerox adapted an old technology from the 1800s, converting it into something that would revolutionize the workplace one level further. This was the facsimile (more commonly known as fax). The fax had a crucial impact on how information was communicated across offices. Easy to use, instantaneous, cost-efficient, and capacity-friendly, the fax quickly rendered the telegraph obsolete.


The initial technology for emails can be traced back to the 1960s, a time when engineers attempted to send messages within the same computer system. It wasn’t until 1973 when the first email server was invented, allowing people to exchange virtual messages even without logging on to the same computer system. The launch of the World Wide Web (www) in 1993 made email very accessible (at least to those who owned a device). After 2010, when smartphones gained stunning popularity, people were able to access emails with a simple tab on an app, making it incredibly convenient to work in mobile mode, without needing to be sat in front of an office computer.

Although emails have undoubtedly revolutionized the workplace and are likely here to stay, they do come with a considerable set of limitations:

The primary disadvantage is that the average worker may receive more than 100 emails a day, with only a fraction of them being actually important or tied to key tasks. This can quickly lead to overwhelm, and some employees may treat emails as something outside their prioritized task list. In a relevant vein, since incoming emails may each contain tiny bits of information, it is easy to miss information from time to time or lose track of things. 

Communication with email, ultimately, is not instantaneous, and users often do not know if their message has been received or properly processed. It also goes to say that although emails have a user-friendly interface, not everyone is trained on how to take advantage of email features to the fullest.

Key Features of Modern Collaboration Platforms and their Benefits 

The frustration that comes with emails inspired the innovation, leading to the invention of modern collaboration platforms.

In comparison with emails, what makes a collaboration platform an attractive asset for the workplace then? With work becoming more hybrid, dynamic, and interconnected globally, there are several necessary components in modern collaboration platforms.

Real-time connection: Whether an employee is working on a project close to its deadline, or whether they’re managing a more complicated matter at hand, real-time collaboration is always the key to productivity. This can be in the form of messaging (i.e., quicker, more visible with immediate notifications) or simply calling online (i.e., no concerns over phone fees). As opposed to emails, there is less ‘excuse’ to ignore message exchanges in real time. This can help employees tick off items on the to-do list faster and earlier (especially the complicated or the trivial ones), leading to higher efficiency and creating a vibe of professionality.

Video conferencing: In a globalized world where businesses often connect across space, video conferencing is helpful for keeping the business world connected. In a collaborative platform, video conferences allow attendees to see one another virtually (creating a sense of teamwork and genuinity); moreover, some video conferencing features allow recording, file sharing, and screen sharing, sometimes with real-time subtitle generation for those with hearing disabilities.

A video conferencing platform is also necessary following the Covid pandemic, where hybrid work has morphed to become the norm. The strength of some collaboration platforms is that with its artificial intelligence, it can automatically fetch meeting schedules from an employee’s texts or emails, and automatically list the meeting on an online calendar.

Video conferencing tools are also improving exponentially. Google’s 3D video conferencing tools, with its 3D imagery, custom depth sensor sensors, and a lifelike display of meeting members on the other side of the screen are an example of this.

Document sharing: Many businesses share important, organized information in files (rather than in fragmented pieces of messages); thus, document sharing would be an extremely helpful feature to have in a modern collaboration platform. An added benefit is that as long as storage space allows, these documents can be stored for a long time, and employees can go back and retrieve the files needed by simply searching keywords.

In relation to document sharing, another rising tool is Microsoft Sharepoint, which is a platform to organize, share, or access files from any device. It can also be used to create websites as well. Noteworthy is that Microsoft Sharepoint is used for collaborative advanced document management; Microsoft Onedrive is more for personal use on the other hand, and is mainly for the purpose of file backups or storing information on the cloud. Microsoft Sharepoint, hence, could be a game changer in enhancing group productivity.

Whiteboard and spaces for notes: Information and ideas in the workplace can easily overload and be overwhelming to process. Good collaborative platforms, therefore, allow spaces for users to write notes to self. Being able to share these drafts with colleagues can also be helpful for collective brainstorming.

Benefits of Integrated Collaboration Platforms for Businesses

As all of the above-mentioned aspects are crucial to run a workplace, a functional collaboration platform would be an all-in-one incorporation of multiple useful features. With several resources in one application, there are good grounds for businesses to build team collaboration, manage communication, and ultimately raise productivity.

So, which tool provides a way for teams to increase communication? With its 270 million global users,  Microsoft Teams has gained popularity for its multiplicity of functions. From the basic chatting, calling, video-calling, and reacting, all the way to calendar creation, note-taking, and task organization, there is little surprise that it has become a widely used tool for office matters. Its well-developed mobile app version also makes it convenient for co-workers to connect on the go, so there is less concern over missing out on communication while away from the office. Microsoft Teams also allows employees to mark their availability (e.g., out of office, available, away, busy, etc.)— a nuance that is helpful for setting expectations and healthy boundaries at work.

Apart from texts, integrated collaboration platforms can also extend to visual work. Designers, for instance, can collaborate on platforms such as Figma. While employees traditionally would not be able to work on design files at the same time (not in the same way that people could work on Google Docs at the same time, at least), on Figma, one employee could adjust the font of a poster while another adjusts the color scheme and graphics. Figma can be used within Microsoft products and would be a game-changer for projects that require a visual, creative touch.

Conclusion: The Future of Business Communication

So how has the internet improved business communication worldwide? As developers continue to revisit and refine the mediums of business communication, we may expect frequent adaptations to collaboration platforms. The Internet, therefore, will be a crucial means to keep abreast of updates in this area. Critically deciding the most resourceful platform to communicate with your team, your business, and your clients could truly be a game changer in the long term. Knowing when to alternate strategically between emails, calls, and collaboration platforms will also lead to optimized productivity.

Esme Lee is a science writer and editor in the UK, carrying a passion for tech copywriting. She has a background in educational neuroscience and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.


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