Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Turning business communications inside-out, outside-in to create sustaining value – 3

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on April 23, 2011

This is my third installment in a series on business communications (see Business Strategy and Operations, postings 131 and 134.) And if I can achieve anything through it in helping you and you business, I would like to help you to limit levels of death by CC that you have to deal with.

We all email and we all receive emails, and often a lot more than we need to see. The floods of email messages we face have the important emails we need to see buried in them. But way too often, people use and abuse the reply-all option and they pad the recipients list for what they send with excessive use of CC.

• Social media tools like microblogging open up new channels for managing the sharing of information, and can reduce or even eliminate overuse/misuse bottlenecks to workplace productivity and peace of mind.

I started this posting citing death by CC, or if you prefer death by reply-all as poster child examples of information management problems, and for a simple reason. We all see them and way more than we would like to. Think back to the last time you were away on vacation, and certainly if you were really away and not checking into your work email accounts until you got back. Did you see your life pass quickly before your eyes when you saw the total number of items waiting for you in your inboxes that first day back, as if you were about to drown in the stuff? Now how much of was stuff you really did not have to see at all, with the important communications hidden in their midst?

Project and program managers can set up, or have set up in-house microblogging accounts with controlled visibility and participation. Or they can set up project or program-specific online groups with file sharing and other capabilities added in support. These and other options can be used within the proprietary access-controlled structures of your in-house enterprise networks and your internal information architecture and everything gets archived, so if someone needs some particular attached document or comment, they can always find it – without being hit with everything, and whether they need it or not.

And this is the great secret to adding social media to a business’ internal information architecture, along with the more obvious Web 2.0 and interactive intranet. Wider ranges of connection and sharing options mean everyone does not have to send everything to everyone, all the time. These become productivity tools, and with cleaner, clearer archiving capabilities than floods of emails could provide.

I mentioned a private network business microblogging tool suite in part one to this series with Yammer and I cite that again here. And with this tool and similar in mind I propose a hands-on exercise that I would argue should be part of your ongoing information management due diligence processes.

• Poll or focus-group or otherwise check with your employees to find out which communications channels you offer work for them.
• Ask with open ended questions where the positives and negatives are and where tools may improve or hinder productivity.
• Ask where important messages can most easily be found and where they can and do get lost in the flow and clutter.
• Ask about where distribution systems work with the right people in the loop for the right information at the right time, and where that breaks down and how.

Now the question becomes one of determining whether new and alternative communications and sharing tools might help reduce the negatives that you have uncovered while accentuating the positives.

• What do these same people use outside of work and what do they use them for? Do they like them, and if so why, why not?
• What have they used at other jobs and workplaces?
• What do they see in use when working with channel partners and supply chain partners, or with client organizations? The idea here is to throw a wide net for ideas and possible approaches.
• Review all of this and all of these potential features, tools and communications and sharing channels for their capabilities and features, and with your business and its needs in mind.

Notice in this regard that I did not cite instant messaging as an alternative above with the message overload from email CC and reply-all misuse, and that was for a reason. Even when you can add in images and include URLs to access PDF files and other documents, IM does not usually archive very well so messages have to be resent, and cannot simply be looked up and in their original context. So applicability of some tool or resource in other organizations or contexts may not always indicate applicability in yours too.

Look at in-house social media tools as productivity and cost-effectiveness tools where costs you would significantly limit and benefits gain go way beyond simple bottom line dollars and cents expenditures for the tools themselves– and certainly where a seemingly less expensive option creates costs and inefficiencies for its real world usage limitations and from its impact on productivity.

As a final thought here, I have written a number of times in this blog about wikis as internal information infrastructure and productivity tools (see Web 2.0 and Marketing, postings 40 and 42-47.) That has obvious potential in this type of context as do a variety of other increasingly standard tools and approaches, some of which I have been actively writing about. Look for new and emerging tools as well as the more established ones. This is where your internal information architecture can become a source of unique value proposition for your business, in helping you outperform your competition.

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