Do we need another way to communicate?


There are a little over a dozen ways to get in touch with me. You can contact me via email (business or personal), through various social media accounts — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Skype and Yammer — or pick up a phone and call my office, cell, home phone, or Google voice. If I don’t answer, you could leave a voicemail or shoot me a text. You could even sit down and talk to me. With all those methods of communication, why add one more?

Businesses are seeing the need to add another method of communication: instant messaging. It is an efficient way to communicate and collaborate with fellow coworkers and is only growing in popularity and utilization. There are several varieties of real-time messaging, so how do you select the right one? The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that sheds some light into the great puzzle of selecting the right one. The author offers four guidelines to select the best fit. We add a bonus fifth.

Be clear about the goal

What is it that your company needs? What is the business objective? How will it impact productivity, profitability and risk management? What do employees want and will they be eager to utilize? Email, a widely used and wonderful tool, is often overused and the wrong tool for much communication. Brief inquiries and complex group collaboration fit better with other tools. For example, email falls short when it comes to document sharing. There can be several versions of a document circulating among multiple users. One employee could be making edits on a previous version and not realize it until after he or she has put hours into revising and editing. For your business, first define your business needs. What is the biggest reason you need an additional program? Involve important players into this decision. Who would use the service the most, and why?

Lead from the top

This is relevant in most business decisions, but especially with new technology and programs. Often employees are apprehensive about new technology and changing the system. Humans are creatures of habit. They prefer to use the programs and processes to which they are accustomed. To change their behavior, the bosses need to lead the way and make the transition as painless as possible. An executive sponsor, as well as buy-in and support from the top, are imperative to any successful implementation.

One size may not fit all

Yammer and Skype for Business are both great Microsoft collaboration tools. Both serve a different purpose here at i3. Skype for Business is a great method to quickly get a question answered without completely disrupting your coworker. i3 employees also use Yammer. It encourages conversations with multiple people. Pictures and documents are shared easily. While Skype instant messaging is immediate and real time, Yammer is much like Facebook: peruse and check in at will. There’s nothing too urgent there. For us, it is more of a social way to engage with coworkers. This may be true in your company, too. While using multiple messaging solutions may not be ideal, it may be necessary to promote a truly effective and collaborative workplace.

Embrace the platform

In a perfect world, these various tools are integrated into a seamless system or platform that allows for the transition from one communication to another. Therefore, your instant messaging system is integrated to your email, intranet, social collaboration and repository tools.

Beware security issues

Security goes to both technical and social engineering. Instant messaging is yet another system that hackers can target and gather more information. Put rules and boundaries in place to avoid over-sharing information. Keep compliance and industry standards in mind when searching for a messaging service. There are a wide variety of secure systems available. If rules and guidelines are straightforward and easily applicable, employees will be able to interact and minimize the security risk.

We have arrived beyond the telephone and voicemail. Our business peers are communicating in at least a dozen different ways. As you consider instant messaging as a business productivity tool, take an organized and structured approach to your selection.

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