Is email dead? Well, it really depends on which Indian CIO you ask.A recently released report commissioned by KPMG and ServiceNow has re-sparked the debate. The report, Move Over Email: Service Management Brings Automation to the Enterprise, points out that service automation is set to replace e-mail. According to the study, nine out of 10 IT professionals say that many business processes commonly transacted through e-mail could be better run by service automation.It also revealed that an astounding 98 percent of respondents said IT can leverage the service model to help improve the quality and efficiency of different departments such as HR and facilities by automating their service delivery processes. IT professionals identified a clear opportunity to deliver greater efficiencies to their organizations by replacing antiquated e-mail-based request processes with service automation.E-mail will PrevailBut not everyone is convinced that e-mail can be phased out. Shikha Rai, senior director-IT and HR, Canon India is convinced that service automation can never replace e-mail. \u201cAt best, it can complement e-mail. For fast communication e-mail is the most effective. E-mail\u00a0is as essential and basic as, say, electricity. It has its own space and cannot be replaced,\u201d she says.That said, she says that process automation is a must-have. Whatever can be automated should be automated. Any process that has an approval mechanism, is a good candidate for workflow automation, she says, including expense claims, travel approvals, and purchase requisitions.\u00a0(Read more:\u00a0Email to Make Way for Automation: KPMG)\u00a0T.G. Dhandapani, CIO, TVS Motors, echoes this sentiment. Service automation, he says, can reduce the use of e-mail, but cannot replace it. \u201cEmail has its own advantages. It is a primary means of external correspondence. Service automation cannot replace e-mail,\u201d he says.CIOs say that e-mail\u2019s serious staying power is derived from how deeply it is entrenched into user work habits. \u201cE-mail has gone into the nerve of an individual and even a small outage creates lot of disturbance among users. In this part of the world, e-mail is also used for future reference,\u201d says Ravi Sharma, GM-IT, Actavis. \u201c[Service automation] can replace e-mail to some extent but not in toto,\u201d he says.E-mail is StaleNot so long ago, Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, and a former French finance minister, whipped up a storm of criticism, when he called for a "zero e-mail" policy within Atos. The radical initiative was widely derided as impractical and unworkable.But Breton had realized that an overload of e-mail was crippling efficiency. He contended that only 10 percent of the 200 e-mails his employees receive on an average day are useful.From May 2014, Atos abolished e-mail for internal communication. \u201cZero mail is a lighthouse position. It\u2019s a massive cultural change program,\u201d says Avinash Velhal, Group CIO-IMEA, Atos.Velhal recounts his experience as the company transitioned to a zero e-mail strategy. \u201cAtos had e-mail-based internal processes, so when it had to implement the \u2018zero e-mail\u2019 policy the organization studied those processes, got people to look into them, and eliminated mail-based processes.\u201cNow, Atos is using\u00a0an internal social network called blueKiwi. \u00a0We have reduced our dependency on mails considerably,\u201d he says.According to Velhal, eliminating e-mail has introduced benefits. \u201cThe strategy has dramatically improved productivity, reduced distraction, and increased transparency and trust within the company,\u201d says Velhal.Velhal and the folks in Atos aren\u2019t alone in their belief that e-mail can be replaced.\u201cThe proper implementation of service automation can replace the barrage of e-mails that flow in and out of mailboxes,\u201d says Anand Iyer, CIO, NCDEX.While an e-mail is a piece of point-to-point communication, a request made in a service automation tool makes it available to all concerned.\u201cA single request in service automation enters a new record that enriches the data required to give to-the-point MIS. Tracking and tracing becomes easier and this avoids countless phone calls to the service desk by an enthusiastic user to find out the status of his or her request. Service personnel welcome the transparency it brings to the organization. Supervisors are also happy about the fact that dashboards give real-time updates of the service levels, not only to them, but the entire organization,\u201d Iyer says.\u201cAt NCDEX, the entire process of SDLC and change requests is through service automation and it has bought about an atmosphere of transparency and collaboration between IT and business users,\u201d he says.Sharma believes that Employees Self Service (ESS) and Managers Self Service (MSS) provide visibility among application users like HRMS and other business applications which requires approval in hierarchy. \u201cService automation also creates transparency in the whole process and builds a very good knowledge bank,\u201d he says.