In two to three years, our experience communicating digitally (i.e. making and receiving even basic mobile calls) will be very different from our experience today. Communication will be more effective and drive better outcomes.
Technology is moving at a blistering pace, from both a physical computing power and software perspective. These technological factors, in conjunction with market and cultural conditions are converging in a way that will enable an evolution around how we communicate and collaborate with others, particularly in the workplace.
To drive this major transition, we need to consider the five market conditions and the solution below. If successful, we will be able to leverage today’s advanced communication solutions and enterprise applications in a whole new way.
- Communication Solution Options
- Complexity and moving backwards
- Social Media
- Immediate Performance Support™
1) Communication Solution Options
There is a dizzying array of unified communications solution options for IP Telephony systems, desktop voice/video, mobile and room-based video, Instant Messaging, Group Messaging, and Web Collaboration. It seems as though with all these options from a variety of manufacturers, solutions should be easier to implement, operate and adopt. Their overall value should be more apparent as well.
While these solutions do improve how we communicate digitally (mobile and smart phones aside), manufacturers and software providers have not driven a significant business communications shift for the average worker in decades. Keep in mind, when most users receive a call today, voice or video, the most prolific feature is caller ID, a feature that has been around for 25 years.
2) Complexity and moving backwards
One could argue that as a result of communication systems complexity we may be moving backwards from a communications perspective. 30 years ago we had analog “Centrex” phone lines delivered by telephone service providers for voice and voicemail, that transitioned into companies getting their own phone switches (PBX) in the 80’s and 90’s, which then transitioned into advanced on-premises, IP-based systems in the early 2000’s, to now – cloud based systems that for the most part deliver basic voice services. Many of these providers and businesses are devolving into commoditized, simple voice and voicemail systems, without leveraging additional valuable features due to complex implementation, administration and adoption challenges. These commoditized, cloud-based solutions may seem more attractive due to decreased operational overhead, but without the higher value features, companies are left with communication platforms that deliver what those in the late 90’s did.
Today’s businesses capture an enormous amount of valuable information. Unfortunately, we typically aren’t exposed to this information at the right time. The data lives in software application databases and is accessible either through those application’s “front-ends” or aggregators like Microsoft Sharepoint. These applications include financial software, client relationship management software, document management systems, performance management software, learning & development software, etc. While these applications are capable of capturing critical information, users need to go to those applications in order to access the information they are looking for…click, click, click.
Consider a brief call between an employee and a client. During the conversation, information valuable to that interaction resides in a financial application. Because the employee does not have the application and the associated record open at the time of the interaction, the opportunity to leverage or share that information is lost. Users often think to themselves or say “I’ll pull it up and follow up later”. Take a 500-user company for example. As a result of data living in applications across the organization, a conservative estimate would be that twice a day 80% or 400 employees miss an opportunity to be exposed to information that would be helpful to them during a real-time communication. Based on 261 workdays in a year, over 200,000 interactions would have benefited from having the right information at the right time, at the time of interaction, when it matters most.
If enterprise software adoption is a challenge (it is), the scenario above is even more likely to occur, further adversely impacting any enterprise applications return on investment (ROI). As the volume and complexity of enterprise applications increases, adoption continues to be a growing challenge. How much of the potential value of these applications is your organization leveraging? Think customer relationship management (CRM), performance management, Electronic Medical Records (EMR), etc. Adoption challenges alone cost businesses hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars per year. Even the smallest speedbump on the way to accessing information is an adoption deterrent. Access itself is a significantly underestimated challenge of enterprise application adoption.
Take performance management systems for instance, a fundamental component of healthy cultures and employee engagement. This market includes companies like Success Factors (acquired by SAP for $3.4B), and Workday with a Market Cap of $46B. Are we getting the expected return out of these solutions? Can we do better? When you talk to a direct report, peer or manager, how does valuable information in your performance management platform regarding goals, objectives, feedback, and learning and development opportunities add value to your day-to-day interactions? Would you use the application more if it provided Immediate Performance Support™ for you throughout the day? Imagine if the information was available in real time, at the point of interaction, when it matters most.
Another example and a core component of performance management platforms are Learning Management Systems (LMS). Learning and development is another key component of high-performance organizations and high employee engagement. Astoundingly, the statistic on training and development information retention is 8-10%. What are best practices for material retention post-seminar, conference, and internal or external training initiatives? Imagine if your organization, departmental leaders, and or managers had the ability to focus employees on key content from trainings at the time of interaction, when it matters most.
5) Social Media: A Proven Consumption Model
During a recent interview Lady Gaga said “Social media is the toilet of the internet.” Whether we agree or not doesn’t matter (I do), but in the context of this subject social media has generally demonstrated that people respond to brief subsets of information that matters to them. So, what if we applied these cultural phenomena in the workplace, for good. What if we were presented small subsets of information at work that helped us interact with clients and colleagues in real-time, providing Immediate Performance Support™? Leveraging information that is brief enough to drive our attention, and presented in real-time to interrupt existing patterns in a positive way.
Providing companies, leaders and users a way to present brief subsets of multi-source information in real time will be the biggest game-changer in communications in the last 20 years. Specifically, integrating communication systems with application data. The solution will be relationship-aware, it will know whether we are speaking with or writing to a client, a direct report, or a friend. Based on that relationship, different information will be presented. Companies will be able to control what is presented to employees and when. It may be a key document or sales and marketing information when speaking with a client, or valuable performance and learning management information when speaking with a subordinate. Specific training content can be reinforced. All of this content will gravitate to the user, so they won’t have to go find it. Imagine how this would help with access, application adoption, sales, performance management, and learning and development. Another key component, a passionate communication services provider who can put it all together.