The quality of communication is important. Quantity is also important. Both effect your team’s productivity in different ways. Over the years, the tools available have dramatically increased our ability to communicate effectively. And, improvements are still being made.
Quality versus Quantity
A friend at a conference said to me, “[Our activity stream platform] at work is great! I ask a question and get all kinds of responses in the same day.” I replied, “That’s great! Finding answers at work can be so hard. Can you mark the correct answer so others can find it later?”
Enterprise Social Networking is full of activity stream providers. Many look and act a lot like the consumer tools. Post a status update and like other’s status updates. The most common complaint I hear about activity streams is the noise. The second is the lack of organization. Not far behind is bad search experience. All of these speak to the lack of quality in the tools.
An effective networked, electronic communication tool focuses on increasing the quality of the discussion. Without quality, the quantity of new status updates, comments and likes in the other tools quickly becomes overwhelming.
A Brief History of Networked, Electronic Communication
I love consumer social network tools. I can share my thoughts and experiences and get feedback from others. I’ve met a ton of new people through twitter and reconnected with old friends on Facebook. I just connected with a nephew who is on Instagram but not the others. A niece just posted an awesome graduation pic with my big sis in Australia. They don’t improve the quality of communication for me at work.
In almost every company I’ve been employed or contracted by, email and Microsoft Office Documents are the primary form of electronic communication. Email was a revolutionary idea 40 years ago. Word processing doomed the typewriter 10 years earlier. Neither are the cutting edge communications tools we expect in businesses today.
I embraced the web 20 years ago. Immediately, I was fascinated with the rich form of networked, electronic communication possible. I used Yahoo to find information about my studies in Computer Science. I created a web page manually with HTML markup to share things I learned. But it was hard. Publishing on the web required learning syntax. That scares a lot of people.
Blogger introduced a new way. Predecessors, like geocities, allowed the average computer user to create websites, but without a purpose. Blogger’s focus on allowing anyone to publish regular articles on a subject drove huge new web publishing adoption. Unlike email newsletters, blogs allow discovery and archiving. They don’t rely on filling up other’s already full email inboxes. Today, even blogs seem so common place, we forget about them as a social change tool.
Discussion forums were another step away from the old technologies. On the surface, they replaced a once popular group communication tool called newsgroups. However, they also allowed some email distribution lists to move to the web. Newsgroups are mostly gone today. Distribution lists are close to extinct outside of businesses. Why do they persist inside large enterprises? Social web tools have always trailed the consumer space. Thus BYOS.
BYOS – Bring Your Own Social
The Bring Your Own Social movement is in play. Executives are demanding tools that allow them to communicate on internal web sites, with impact metrics, with social context, with personal profiles of the people they engage in discussion. Business units are not waiting for corporate IT to develop an enterprise strategy because they need improvement now! Human resources departments who need call deflection and better customer service ratings need tools today. Internal communications departments need publishing tools that are easier to use. I see this all the time with real companies. Just like CEOs and Business Units had to force IT departments to adopt smart phones and the cloud, they are doing the same with social, today. The great news is that the social tools are better than ever.
Where can you find the most recently answered questions by HR in your company? An electronic bulletin board perhaps? Maybe a physical one? Where I work, it’s a dynamic tile in the HR place on our intranet. You can have it, too. If you don’t yet, it’s coming.