Originally published on Forbes.com on March 5, 2012
Open the information floodgates by letting customers and employees communicate the way they want.
A few years ago, one of our interns confided something unusual to a colleague of mine.
He doesn’t use email anymore.
Hearing this story, my response was something along the lines of, “Huh?” Perhaps I also made a quizzical expression.
The intern, Simon, was already organizing all his study sessions, happy hours and bowling excursions through Facebook. He felt it was easier because everyone was already right there in the same virtual room. He could send one invite and everyone would have the date, in writing, complete with reminders.
I’d forgotten about this anecdote until recently, when a customer came to us with a story about one of his employees, a developer. This developer was painfully shy and was known for remaining absolutely silent during team and company meetings. His wall of silence remained and nobody thought he had anything to say until one day the company enabled a social communications tool in its enterprise software that allowed him to share opinions via chat.
Suddenly, the floodgates opened. He not only had opinions, he had good ones, great comments and great ideas that the company never had access to until they allowed him to communicate in the way he was most comfortable.
In an age where big data is powering the next generation of business, communication is the key to connecting and empowering your customers and employees. You can have all the data in the world, but it’s people who turn that data into insight to make better business decisions. And people like to work and communicate in different ways.
As you look to the future, your IT systems, increasingly built around these constituents, must be flexible enough to support everyone’s preferred style. We talk about the younger, millennial generation and their affinity for social networks, but the fact is, it’s everyone. Social networks are for more than sharing. Increasingly they are the preferred way for many people to create real dialog. By providing these tools you’re not just getting the millennials to participate, you’re opening avenues for all your employees and customers.
What is your company’s primary means of communication? Your team’s? Do you walk down to your colleague’s office or ping them online when you have something to share?