chewing on a pen
Workplace communications tools are there to solve problems and make people's lives easier. Period. PHOTO: Kaboompics

New and emerging communication channels continue to jockey for digital workplace supremacy. 

Slack remains the current trendy choice, but Microsoft Teams is pushing into its territory. 

Meanwhile old, busted — yet reliable — email keeps running thanks to all of the new and improved engines in the cloud.

Which tool is the right choice? What will work? What tradeoffs are reasonable for getting the job done? 

Choosing a team communication tool is a choice best made by (wait for it ...) the team. The only danger lies in cutting IT out of the loop.

When it Comes to Communications, Security Matters

Simply having a working tool is not enough. Multiple communications tools geared towards team communications are available which suit every communication style.

So when you're narrowing your choices, look for security features. Ransomware and hacking attacks are a daily reality, which means security isn't a nice to have but a necessity.

Can the tool be encrypted? Does it offer two-factor authentication? Does it integrate with existing authentication systems? Does the vendor back up communications? 

If the tool doesn’t meet your organization's minimum standards, remove it from consideration. 

Start by asking IT to define the minimum security requirements. If this takes more than a week or two, fast track to proposing options. You want requirements from IT, not solutions. Many solutions now provide basic, and effective, security features.

Do You Need a New Tool or a New Mindset?

Leaving IT and other groups out of the selection process only creates problems — and is self-defeating on many fronts. Hiding your efforts dooms the communications tool to failure before you even set it in place.

IT should either support you, offer viable options or get out of the way. If IT blocks you completely, you know their goal isn’t helping you achieve your mission, it's retaining control. Struggle for control prevents real solutions from taking effect.

If this sounds like your situation, your problem isn’t a lack of team communication tool: it's the organizational mindset. You need to address the absence of collaborative mindset before attempting to adopt a new tool.

Productivity First

In the end, we buy collaboration tools to get a job done. Choose tools that support your employees and allow them to track what is happening. 

Email works well for communicating with outside team members. Instant messaging tools answer most needs of collocated offices. Distributed teams need more robust solutions, like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Find some options and try them out. When you find yourself constantly reminding people to use the tool, it isn’t the one for you. Pick another tool and try again. 

When you find the right tool, you'll know. People will spend more time in the tool than in email for team communications.

When in Doubt, Talk

Before doing anything, talk to your team members. See what they are using now. Ask what features they like and what they don’t like. Determine where communication breakdowns occur. Offer solutions, but do not dictate them.

Whether you deploy a new solution or not, check in regularly. You never know when things will change. Team dynamics shift and so do the communication needs, so flow with the evolving technologies and shifting team dynamics.

Remember, the goal is to solve problems and make people’s life easier. It isn’t to buy the latest tech.