Did you ever have a workday that you spend almost entirely reading e-mail? Chances are you had. I have often tought that the problem was that people mailed too much. Now I have a more nuanced view on that.
I am not so sure that the communication should not take place in a lot of these cases. There was always a reason behind every mail. And the person sending the mail was using the communication means that he thought most fit. But the number of means to choose from was too small. I think the excessive amounts of e-mail were caused by a lack of synchronous alternatives.
This shows now that I am using alternative messaging systems in my own work. I use sort of an internal Twitter (Yammer) and I use our company chat. This is lowering the amount of messages in our inboxes. For quick questions I use chat. For discussions I use Yammer. These were things that used to go over e-mail!
The advantage of synchronous means like chat and discussion fora is that you can more easily choose to ‘just not respond’. As opposed to e-mail there will not be a message waiting for you in your inbox after a week. A message that is not relevant to anyone by then anymore. So while these alternatives are deminishing the amount of e-mails, they do not take a lot of time themselves either! They are taking us back to a more synchronous way of communicating as opposed to the asynchronous e-mail mechanism.
Of course there are also the old school synchronouse means of walking over to somebody and calling somebody over the phone, which is often fun. These old school means should still be promoted, I reckon. They have a lot of added value on the relational side. That is, I believe they help to build relations better than just typed information. (Excuse me for not typing my phone number and address here. I like some privacy too!)