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Imagine it’s the early 1980s and an entrepreneur is pitching you to invest in a new product concept to help people and companies work more efficiently.  The product is called “email” and the concept is pitched as follows:

  • All incoming emails gets lumped into the same place…
  • regardless of whether they are from your boss, someone in Nigeria trying to scam you for money, or someone you never met trying to sell you knockoff watches…
  • and while sending email is virtually free, you must spend money every month on a service to keep the things you don’t want from coming into your inbox and this service doesn’t work very well…
  • so the system functions as a rather effective virus delivery system for hackers...
  • plus you can set up rules to organize your emails but they never quite work right…
  • so you must manually drag things into folders to keep them organized or instead...
  • you can sort the emails by subject but this will lump the email with the subject “Question” that relates to your associate wanting to know more about the resort you vacationed at two years ago with another email with the subject “Question” from your boss about the report you gave him for a meeting he has this afternoon.

email-guy

You'd probably suggest the entrepreneur would be better off pitching the health benefits of cigarettes and then you’d sidle out the door at about 45 miles per hour. And yet here we are in 2015 and email is still, by far, the dominant form of communication used by business, not just externally (where it makes some sense because we need some common technology to communicate other people in other companies), but internally, where the importance of the communication is usually higher and where there is real opportunity to really do better since the systems are totally in our control.  But email is so much a part of the landscape that we never take the opportunity to step back and look at how ridiculous this “system” is.

I’ve seen one example of something better in the form of Salesforce.com.  For those of you that don’t know, Salesforce.com is a customer relationship management system that allows people in a company to collaborate around sales opportunities, tech support cases, and numerous other aspects of the business that are critical to success.  While the Salesforce.com user interface does not blow me away, I know when I go into Salesforce.com the information will be relevant to our business with nary an opportunity to buy knockoff watches.  This is very refreshing!

I am writing about this because retail real estate companies have the same problem with email that everyone else does.  Crucial information about deals, market intelligence, reports, and lots of other important stuff is mixed in with newsletters, party invitations, spam and all the other non-essential stuff that comprises the typical corporate email inbox.

One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is seeing companies use our technology to get a lot of the really crucial stuff out of email and into a systems that lets them focus on what’s important and see this important stuff in context with all the other important stuff. I think this may be the most important thing we do.

There will always be email.  But email should be for the general, non-crucial stuff. Anything worth running a business around should have a system dedicated to it that allows for communication and collaboration.  Especially given the power of modern technology, there's really no good excuse to continue with the status quo.

 


Author
Joe Rando