Tag: future-of-business-communication

To Chat, or Not to Chat, for Effective Business Communication?

“To Chat, or Not to Chat: …”

…that is the question”, to paraphrase William Shakespeare, but, in the context of effective business communication in a mobile-centric world, is this question really the one that you should be asking?

business communication
“To chat or not to chat?” may not be the right question to ask for effective business communication.

It seems that business organizations today are looking to borrow from the consumer world and implement chat solutions to improve the way they communicate and collaborate. The main reason for this appears to be because that is what their employees are using to communicate via their phones and tablet devices to their family and friends so why not use their preference in this area to make it easier to communicate with colleagues across the organization?

We have been here before. A few years ago there was a drive to become ‘social’. Not to be confused with being generous to your local community, social business was about breaking down silos within an organization, sharing knowledge, fostering innovation and improving engagement with employees as well as with business partners and even customers. A variety of solutions emerged: Jive, Yammer, Clearvale, Podio, Huddle and so on and so on; all leveraging what was happening in the consumer world but bringing the capabilities within the business organization as an ‘Enterprise Social Network’ or ‘ESN’, i.e. what became known as ‘Facebook for business’ or ‘Twitter for business’ (before Facebook themselves started promoting their own application for business!) reflecting this penchant for all things ‘social’.

However, whilst there have been some companies that have successfully adopted these ESN solutions, for a large majority it was a step too far as users failed to embrace the activities required. Many saw it as another communication channel alongside email that needed to be checked and responded to or just used it for real social activities with work colleagues: organizing the five-a-side league; lunchtime jogging sessions; after work get-togethers and so on. That is, idle chit-chat and nothing really to do with knowledge sharing or collaboration on work initiatives; and, of course, many simply reverted to email as their communication tool of choice despite email’s shortcomings for effective business collaboration.

Today, with the likes of ‘WeChat’ and ‘WhatsApp’ being extremely popular as an alternative communication channel, organizations are now looking to embrace this type of application for an ‘Enterprise Chat’ solution to go alongside the use of personal phones and tablet devices for business use; what is known as ‘BYOD’ (bring your own device).  But this trend potentially could end up in the same place as their ESN solution. Just being yet another channel on top of email and that needs to be checked. So, rather than replacing email these ‘Enterprise Chat’ solutions simply add to the current communication overload and fragmented discussions prevalent within organizations. They may be useful for small teams on specific short-term projects, or even for customer service teams to engage with customers via a channel the customer has a preference for, but, at the end of the day they are not really doing anything to foster effective business collaboration and engagement or to drive productivity improvements across an organization.

Enterprise Chat might be something that organizations think they want to improve business communication and collaboration, especially as many employees are using their own mobile devices anyway, but is it really what they need, especially if the anticipated productivity improvements are not likely to be forthcoming.  Why add yet another communication channel when what is really needed is something that is in tune with the way people work today whether they are in an office, working from home or travelling on a regular basis; on a desktop or on a mobile device, that actually reduces the communication overload and facilitates the effective collaboration and engagement necessary to drive knowledge sharing and improve business performance. Chat is only one part of business communication so focusing on this aspect only might not be the best move in the path to true collaboration and engagement in a mobile-centric business world.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare again: “Alas, poor (insert Enterprise Chat solution of choice)! I knew him, Horatio: a solution of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy …”

Want more on this subject? Read 6 Reasons Why You Need Mobile Collaboration in Business and 6 Business Communication Trends.

The Future Of Business Communication: Moving Beyond Email

BroadVision are proud to be sponsoring a series of free webinars hosted by Our Social Times entitled The Future Of Business Communication. The first of these, Moving Beyond Email, will be on October 15th and will consider the impasse so many organizations have got to with email as a business communication tool – everyone knows it has become overused to the point that it damages business efficiency, but they struggle to find the solution.

I’ll be joined by Angela Ashenden of MWD Advisors, Luke Brynley-Jones of Our Social Times and Belinda Gannaway of NixonMcInnes. Both Angela and Belinda have posted some of their thoughts on the subject as taster of what’s to come in the webinar, and below you can find my article, originally published on Our Social Times blog.

I hope you’ll be able to join us on October 15th for what promises to be an thought-provoking discussion.

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Email – the business communication tool we love to hate.

Yes, there are people who just hate email and have done something about it by moving to an enterprise social network or similar. And yes, there are some people who, despite all email’s well-known failings, still love it. But the vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle – our business lives are dependent on email as our primary communication tool, but it is a constant source of frustration to us. We know there’s a better way of communicating – social networking in the consumer world has demonstrated that to us – but we just don’t know how to get our companies to make the towards this 21st Century communication nirvana.

It’s not as if there is any shortage of new communication tools to move to. Quite the reverse, and the vast array of options available can be overwhelming. Barely a week goes by without another VC-funded start-up claiming to have reinvented email for the mobile age.  But while we may, as consumers, be happy to flit from one shiny new app the next, moving an entire company’s communications on such a whim, unsurprisingly, never happens.

Indeed, it is hard to overestimate just how resistant change many companies, and their individual employees, are when it comes to kicking their email habit. For the last three or four years, the introduction of enterprise social networks (ESNs) were seen as the solution to corporate communication woes, but their promise remains unfulfilled. For many organisations, ESNs have proved to be too big a step to take all in one go. The open, transparent way of working that an ESN represents is a destination, rather than the first step of the journey.

More recently, an avalanche of WhatsApp look-a-likes has promised employees a simple way of communicating efficiently from mobile devices. But these often represent many IT departments’ worst nightmare, where corporate control and discoverability of data is even worse than in the world of email. Different is a not always better.

So it seems that this “let’s-kill-email” plan is going to require a bit more thought…. That’s why BroadVision is pleased to be running The Future Of Business Communication series with Our Social Times, which is kicking off with our Moving Beyond Email webinar on 15th Oct.

Maybe we don’t want to kill email at all. Instead, what we really want is to go back to using email for what it’s good at (e.g. quick person-to-person ephemeral messaging , simple notifications)  and stop using it for all the things it’s really poor at (e.g. big group discussions, carrying company knowledge, transporting large files around).  When we consider what’s beyond email, we shouldn’t assume that email plays no part in the new communication landscape. Yes, it will play a different part, and almost certainly a reduced part, but it will almost certainly still be there.

Perhaps the biggest omission from most of these beyond-email debates is the recognition that we don’t all use email in the same way, and we don’t all hate the same bits of it. I know that in my company, further up the management chain the biggest frustration is the classic overflowing-inbox volume-of-email issue. But personally, that doesn’t bother me much. 20+ years of using email have trained to be to be really good at filtering an inbox very quickly. No, my biggest frustration is people who don’t reply to messages I’ve sent.  It is email’s lack of accountability that I hate. Take a cross-section of any company and you’ll find a similar disparity in opinion about what’s wrong with email and what the company should do about it.

So, any beyond-email plan first needs to understand how people in the company are really using communication tools today, their frustrations, and their hopes for future innovation. Only then can we formulate a comprehensive, credible strategy for updating our business communication habits.