Is Email Fading Away?

Patrick Brandt is making predictions about the obsolescence of email. We are seated in the lobby of the Dallas W Hotel, where he’s hosting a social media conference called “The Big Social,” and he’s wearing a Roger Staubach Dallas Cowboys jersey. The legendary quarterback keynoted the morning, telling audiences that even he has an iPhone and email, although you won’t find Staubach on “the Facebook.”

As CEO of social media monitoring software Telligent, Patrick Brandt has often been at the bleeding edge of technology. In 2006, he helped found the online photo service Cyberpix, long before Shutterfly and Snapfish liberated digital photo prints from cameras. (That’s even before Ofoto, if you can remember them.) He later founded another small startup, Skywire Software, which was later sold to Oracle.

Now, he heads up Dallas-based Telligent, an enterprise software solution for midsize to large companies to manage internal communications and external social media communication with customers.

SUCCESS: When someone asks what you do, what’s your 5-second elevator speech?

Patrick Brandt: Telligent creates social software for businesses and online communities. We allow you to create your own private online community, with your data and your information integrated with your systems. Dell uses it for their customers, help desk, forums, blogs, wikis and activity streams. Some companies use it as a social intranet, like Facebook inside your company, with your company’s brand integrated into your company’s systems.

S: But why is that important?

PB: Social software for businesses—this is the way. What email was for businesses 10 years ago, before it became a must-have tool used by every company, is what social software will become for large companies. You want that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter-like experience in your business life, too. You want to be able to access information on such a platform, instead of just relying on a traditional face-to-face interaction.

S: So then, back-and-forth email conversations will be replaced with these company intranet systems?

PB: Yes. In the next 5 to 10 years, email is going to go the way of the post office. We’ll use email for more formal communications and less timely or urgent matters, and instead use social interaction such as direct message or a post in a group forum for everyday use.

S: Do small companies believe this is inevitable? Why can’t they continue to use email and use third-party apps like Google Chat to interact with each other?

PB: Here’s the key. Your customers are going social and that’s how they want to interact with you; therefore you need to interact with them in the same way. This is what people mean by the consumerization of IT. For the first time, customers are dictating what enterprise software is needed by companies. That’s a huge shift for consumers leading the way.

Three More Questions with Patrick Brandt, CEO of Telligent

S: What’s your favorite inspirational quote?

PB: “Ask not what you can achieve, but what you can contribute [to your family, your employees, your customers, your community]. If you focus on what you can contribute, imagine what you can achieve.” —Peter Drucker

S: Finish this sentence: You first knew you were an entrepreneur when…

PB: I took the money I earned from mowing lawns and bought a stock in Nike. The day that $5 dividend check signed by Phil Knight of Nike came in, I knew.

S: What object in your office are you unreasonably attached to and why?

PB: Artwork by my kids. That’s stuff that can’t be reproduced.

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