rotary phone
How can you provide improved communication and productivity without causing a communication breakdown?

How can you improve communication and productivity without causing a communication breakdown, or worse, wasting time, effort and money?

An extensive selection of equipment, software and services are available to improve communication in the enterprise. Yet devising a plan to improve your communication strategy can be time consuming, costly and burdensome.

But it's a Catch-22: without a thorough strategy set in place, gaining adoption for a new technology often translates to a costly learning curve and time wasted on efforts that could lead to a dead end. 

I’ve been there, and it's no fun for anyone. 

Getting value requires a clear understanding of the different communication channels available to your organization, a detailed plan on choosing and implementing the right solution, and providing the necessary training for a seamless adoption of your new communication technology.

So how do you navigate the new communication landscape and the different areas you should be evaluating to choose the right solution? Let's get you on track to finding the right communication channel for your organization.  

Real-Time vs. Asynchronous Communication Channels

Many workplaces are limited to asynchronous communication channels such as email, voicemail, text messaging and fax. 

But as technology evolves, the workplace inevitably has to follow suit. Whereas a few years ago, the only real-time communication channel offices could use was picking up the phone to call someone, our current workplaces have instant messaging, presence awareness, web and video conferencing, screen sharing and data sharing solutions.

Most companies are now modernizing their infrastructure and many are starting to realize they need to catch up or risk falling behind. By identifying the real time and non-real time communication needs of different individuals within your organization, you can begin to unify different channels and simplify communication.

How to Identify Communication Requirements

Unifying workplace communication takes a carefully crafted combination of the right equipment, software and services to provide an integrated experience between synchronous (or real time) and asynchronous communications for your employees.  

The problem always becomes more complex when looking at how specific businesses function. You need to identify how to make these specific communication channels more efficient so that you can essentially create time savings for everyone.

For example, the requirements for inside sales communications may be different from those of knowledge workers. Inside sales workers need computer telephony integration, customer relationship management software and product catalogs. They may also need access to their colleagues or product experts to ask questions. Their communication needs often require routing, queuing and the ability to immediately connect with colleagues.

The knowledge worker on the other hand may work mainly with internal colleagues. Their communication requirements may be less real-time, with further dependence on email, document collaboration and meeting scheduling.  

Establishing these communication requirements based on business function and role can give you a good idea of where to start before you contact a digital workplace solutions company. These requirements also provide a good indication of what an efficient system for your organization should look like.

Communication and Collaboration Are Not the Same

While initial analysis of your workforce and their communication needs can help you identify the level of collaboration you require, remember: not all communication technology is considered collaborative. 

Communication and collaboration in the workplace are sometimes used as analogs to one another. Both aim to share knowledge and information. However, collaborative technologies allow workers to collaborate on projects regardless of location by using chat, file sharing, online document editing and other features.

For example, having an instant messaging window embedded in the document editor makes it easier for teams to co-author a document and share feedback instantaneously. Collaborative technologies look to create a virtual environment that encourages and simplifies teamwork by providing seamless communication, which is especially helpful for geographically separated colleagues. 

Understand the level at which your employees need to collaborate, anticipate future growth and talk to a digital workplace expert about your communication and collaboration needs.

Avoiding a Communication Breakdown

Communication is not one size fits all. A solution for one organization might render useless for another depending on factors like structure, job roles and collaboration needs. 

Making all communication channels connected is not the answer. As with so many other solutions, you still need to keep it simple. Start by focusing on business function and ways to improve efficiency in communication to help define the channels and how employees should use them.  

Remember the cost, the noise and disruption that changes in work processes cause, and the potential need to adjust the amount of communication equipment or software you invest in. 

Working with a reseller of the equipment and software you’re interested in is one way to reduce costs. Companies that resell those products often offer custom package options with savings built into your end cost. Talk to a few providers and work with an organization that will provide a custom solution designed just for you.

Gone are the days when phone and email were the only communication channels you need. Knowledge creation, retention and reuse are core communication channels to any thriving business. Identifying the place where collaboration and communication meet is a good starting point to define your communication needs and opportunities.