Discussion Papers

Monika Plum

Der Wandel in der Unternehmenskommunikation - Substitution traditioneller Briefpost durch elektronische Medien
Nr. 163 / Juli 1996


Substitution between letter mail through electronic communication has been a subject of growing concern in recent years. The emergence of new telecommunication media like facsimile and electronic mail (e-mail) is considered to be a fundamental threat to traditional letter mail. Business communication is threatend most by electronic communication. Decisions on purchasing and using electronic communication are also decisions on substitution, although not all electronic communication replaces letter mail. A great deal of electronic communication is additionally or substitutes other kinds of communication like phone calls or face-to-face-communication. Nevertheless monitoring the purchase and usage of electronic communication helps to identify the potential for substitution.

The choice of enterprises between different communication media is a decision making process, influenced by a variety of factors. Apart from the pattern of business communication (volume, senders and recipients, contents) the requirements of enterprises for different communication media are of major importance. The requirements of business communication have itself an effect on the user acceptance of electronic communication media. The user acceptance of electronic communication is high, if the requirements of communication are better met electronically than by traditional letter mail. The influencing factors determine the usage of electronic communication and indirectly the potential for substitution of letter mail. The study presents results from an empirical survey of enterprises in Germany. The survey focussed on the communication behaviour of enterprises and verified the main interdependencies.

The analysis of determining factors allows to draw some conclusions on current and future substitution of business communication. Current substitution mainly takes place through facsimile and in business-to-business communication. Some industries like public authorities, banks and insurances are rather innovative in their communication behaviour and use electronic communication widely. A further result is the selective use of communication media. According to their pattern and requirements of communication, enterprises use different media.

The trends of current substitution will continue in the near future. Electronic communi-cation through e-mail is assumed to grow slowly. Therefore future substitution will still concentrate on facsimile. Enterprises who currently use electronic communication in a greater extent and with cost savings in communication costs will also play a leading role in future substitution. In contrast to this the level of substitution within enterprises with a currently low level of substitution will remain low in the future.

Only German language version available.

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