Email vs messaging: what’s the difference?


When GDPR is introduced in May 2018, most companies must transition from email to enterprise messaging for internal communication. This is due to email being directly inappropriate, at least from a security perspective, for communication containing exchange of personal data (especially so-called sensitive personal data).

Read more about why GDPR means the end of internal email.

Also, enterprise messaging is on its way to completely eradicate email within the consumer sector, and especially the younger generation has already transitioned to various messaging solutions. For today’s enterprises this is a challenge and it’s essential to meet the younger generation’s demands on smooth communication also at the workplace.

But what is the difference between email and enterprise messaging?

Before we answer this question it’s important to understand that messaging has gone through a radical development the past few years, and can no longer be compared to the earlier versions that were similar to today’s SMS. We are now in the fourth generation of messaging, known as enterprise messaging.

Also check this video where we summarize the main differences between email and enterprise messaging.


With email all incoming messages arrive in the INBOX, no matter what they are about. There is no possibility to make sure, in advance, that incoming emails about a certain project ends up in a certain folder. Everything arrives at the same place (i.e. at the top of the INBOX) and must be sorted manually, or, which may be more common, sink deeper and deeper into the gigantic INBOX.

With enterprise messaging an enterprise can adapt the communication structure according to the company’s organizational structure. It’s separated by the Team concept, and employees belong to the teams that correspond to their role in the company. A seller belongs to the Sales team, and a software developer belongs to the Development team. Within a team, all communication takes place in so-called Channels, where messages are displayed in chronological order, and can be seen by anyone who is a member of the channel.


For email, notifications are either on or off. Either your cell phone chimes for every new email, or it doesn’t chime at all. This is because all incoming emails end up in the INBOX, no matter what subject or content. This leads to email stress due to all notifications that constantly interrupts you, and all the context transitions this leads to. Research shows that up to 20% of a work day can be spent on pure context shifting between email and everything else being worked on. The context shifting is the time it takes from switching back from email after an interruption, until one gets going again with what one was doing before the interruption.

With enterprise messaging there are much better possibilities to control what kind of messages and what content should trigger notifications for me as a receiver. For example, I can easily set up so that only certain messaging channels shall trigger notifications.

Edit & delete

With email it’s possible to edit a message until it is sent. Certain email clients also allow to undo the sending of an email for a few seconds after having clicked on “Send”, but after it has been sent there can be no more editing. How many times have your written an email while being upset and then immediately regretting sending it, and having to send a new email to apologize? Or having sent an email and directly remembering something your forgot to mention, and then having to send a new email with additional information, perhaps followed by yet another clarifying email…

With enterprise messaging it’s possible to edit the text after having sent it. It’s also possible to completely delete the message so that the receiver can no longer read it. Think about all the anxiety this removes, and how much easier it will be to collaborate.

Change management

When a person gets employed at a new company, or gets assigned a new role and joins a certain project, that person enters a start-up phase where he or she must get up to speed by familiarizing him or herself with things that has happened before. If previous communication has been through email, there is virtually no chance that other people in the project will start forwarding old emails to the new person. It simply too much work and too tedious.

With enterprise messaging the situation is different. Since communication takes place in messaging channels, where different people can be invited over time, change management is easy. Simply invite the new person to the channels where the project related communication has taken place, and he or she gets immediate access to previous decisions and discussions. Everything also gets searchable.

Open standard

Email is a communication format that has existed for a long time. There are standardized protocols describing how messages are structured and how they shall be sent and received. This means that different IT-providers can develop own email clients. As long as these programs are adapted to the email standards, it will work to send emails between different email programs. The only requirement being that the sender must know the receiver’s email address. Just like telephony.

Enterprise messaging on the other hand is no open standard and communication between different messaging solutions does not work. The only possibility for communication between different solutions for enterprise messaging is to set up API-based integrations.

For this reason we believe that email will remain the de-facto standard for external communication, and a very important means for establishing a first contact. In the same way that telephony works.

However, there are messaging solutions built for integrating with other messaging solutions. In Briteback, for example, it’s possible to synchronize a messaging channel between Slack and Briteback. This way all messages being posted in one channel will also be posted in the synchronized channel, and vice versa.


Enterprise messaging is superior for internal communication and for communication with established partners and sub-contractors. Email is good for opening up new relationships ans handling external communication.

More information

Check out these articles about enterprise messaging:

  • Enterprise messaging – an introduction.
  • Enterprise messaging – what are the advantages?

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