Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Call me, email me, text me, ping me, follow me, SMS me, BBM me...too many options?

867-5309 - great song and a sign of the times in the early 80’s, one number, one way to reach someone. What would the song be like today? PIN5309, @8675309, 867@309.com, the list goes on.

When I heard this song, I began to think back to when I first started in my role as an inside sales rep in the late 90’s. My three choices of communication in the office were, in person, on the phone and email. Email was still new at the time and I can remember debating whether or not I wanted to have my email on my business card. It seems so strange now. Back then, I was not convinced that anyone would actually try to reach me this way. Little did I know that 10 years later I would be battling with it every day in a game of catch-up.

When I take inventory of how many tools and methods I have at my disposal today (thanks to the Internet and social media) to communicate with my peers and friends, I start to see the evolution of communication and the speed in which things are changing. Today when I need to reach out to a co-worker I can do the following; Walk over to their cube, but that doesn’t happen very often as most of my colleagues are in other countries. I can send an email, but that tends to get lost in a black hole. I can pick up the phone, but many of my co-workers have gotten rid of their desk phones. I can call their mobile device and that is usually a good bet as most people are always on these days. Or, if I know they are in a meeting then I will IM them on my corporate IM tool, Real Time. If that does not work maybe I will try their BBM, if that does not work maybe I can...and it goes on and on.

You would think that by having all of these different forms of communication my productivity rate would be off the charts, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Both the glut of email and the disruptions in IM, that take me away from my tasks, start to detract from my ability to get my day to day work done. What I need is a communication tool that can provide me with more focus. It is not by coincidence that we are now seeing a trend in the Enterprise that has more users making use of tools such as Yammer. Gartner recently predicted that by 2012, activity streams (microblogging) will be used by over 50 percent of Enterprises.

I have found that making use of a microblogging tool such as Yammer and my Enterprise tool, Open Text Pulse (yes that’s a shameless plug); in conjunction with tools such as email and IM is a leap forward over just email on its own. These tools allow me to broadcast a message or a question to many, share my status and location as well as see status updates of new content being created in my Enterprise by co-workers that I follow. That is not to say that I think the victory of one is not a peril to the other. I think email will always have its place but in my experience, microblogging does a better job at delivering a comprehensive view into my knowledge base. Microblogging can augment the Enterprise by allowing employees to update each other on projects they’re working on and provide shared support and guidance.

Would love to hear your thoughts and or experience on the subject?


  1. It's not so much about the number of apps available as it is about the number of different apps preferred by the groups and individuals with which we communicate.

    Recall not long ago some friends chose AIM, others chose Yahoo Messenger, still others chose ICQ or MSN to communicate.

    Development soon followed for new apps to aggregate access to the other apps...Jabber, Trillian, Meebo, etc. Except we were still forced to create accounts with each IM service in order to communicate with the subset of friends and colleagues who chose that service. Annoying to say the least.

    The same sort of thing happens in every nook and cranny of social media.

    A handful of well-known studies have shown that people claim to want choice (in everything from food and clothing to paint and furnishings), but they clearly have better outcomes and higher satisfaction with fewer choices. Tell that to a free market.

    We can't curb the number of choices available on the market. Nor can we demand that our friends standardize on a couple forms of communication and applications. But we can help ourselves by reducing the number of forms of communication we are willing to use, and aggregating communication wherever possible (as in the IM example above).

  2. Yes, I agree. Aggregating is key! Thanks for the comment!

  3. On the broader topic on having too much choice, I would strongly recommend "The paradox of choice" by Barry Schwartz.

    Here is a talk on the subject: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

    "In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied."

  4. Thanks Anonymos! Loved the talk. Posted it at the bottom of my page here. Thanks so much for sharing.