There is a new wave of tools in the marketplace designed to make team communication easier. That’s generally a good thing: you want your team to be able to share information instantly, answer questions that might otherwise stall progress and help each other out. As usual, though, there are a lot of competing tools, and the vast majority of licensees use only a portion of the functionality.
That might sound like a good reason not to invest in these tools. After all, if there isn’t consensus on what’s best, and if we invest in them we won’t get our ROI, what’s the point? But that’s not the case at all. If your team isn’t using something like these tools, you should consider it. If you are, you should be assessing how well you’re leveraging their features.
How do these tools differ from good old Instant Messaging, webcam, or webmeeting platforms? The key is that these tools serve multiple purposes, and are fairly easy to use. That’s important, because two of the biggest barriers to adoption are having a single-purpose tool means learning and using a bunch of different tools, and time to learn each of those tools is seen as a poor use of time when there’s work to be done.
That’s why tools like Microsoft Lync, Yammer (which is often added onto existing tools like Salesforce) and Slack are becoming good options for many teams. What features do they have, and why do they matter to good team communication?
Most of the platforms (and there are others out there) do the following:
- Instant messaging with simple status updates
- File attachments/ transfers
- Individual/team/group messaging that allows a team to have private conversations or archive team discussions without using multiple tools
- Simple (often one-click) integration with webcams and webmeeting platforms to turn IMs into video and voice conferences. Lync is Skype for Business, Slack ties in with Google Hangouts and it’s all pretty simple to use.
- Consistency across devices so that whether you’re at your desk or in an airport lobby you can stay in touch
- Reasonable network security
Remember that having a tool is only useful if people leverage it. When something can accomplish several tasks and eliminate that many log-ins and passwords, there’s a better chance you can get people to use it.
It’s also important that before rolling out technology, you discuss it with your team and use a “form follows function” approach. What communication challenges are you trying to solve? How will this tool address them? Will you give people real training and practice in the tool? Will they be able to get help and real answers without checking three hours of online video? Will it be something you coach and advise them on going forward? Is it a seamless part of the workflow?
Most importantly, will the boss (that means you) use it?
Many of these tools offer variable pricing ranging from free to premium. (Full disclosure, I’ve been working with a strategic partner using the free version of Slack and it kind of rocks.)
If you’re having trouble getting people to use several different tools, consider looking into one of these all-in-one solutions.