Digital Workspace
April 28, 2020

Modernizing Your Communication Stack For Better Connection

In today's globally competitive environment, organizations are under increasing pressure to grow, innovate, and increase productivity. As a result, organizations will inevitably seek new technologies to unlock competitive advantage and derive more value from their workforce.

There is great value to be had in modern collaboration tools that are properly deployed and leveraged. These tools can have a massive impact on productivity, and employee experience ultimately allowing employees to work better, together.

Deploying new technology: one part science, one part art

It has also become increasingly clear that integrating these technologies into the working lives of employees requires a delicate combination of science and art. Organizations are ecosystems of technologies and workflows. Simply deploying another application into the fray rarely yields the desired results...and can have counterproductive impacts.

Organizations seeking to increase efficiency and improve their employee experience must walk a fine line: deploying new technologies with the goal of building a more connected and holistic experience.

So what are the right combinations? What combination of tools provides maximum value and maximum engagement while limiting app-fatigue?


The Core Elements of Modern Communication

The key to building a productive communication stack is to understand the different key components. Here are the five key technologies organizations should have in their modern communication stack.

Technology #1 - Email

Email is the tried and tested core of digital communication. While modern chat tools have been reducing intra-team email volume, for correspondence between departments or with external actors such as clients and vendors email still reigns supreme.

Key Solutions:

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Gmail

Effective utilization of email today is about more than providing a modern client. Organizations must also ensure secure access to email from anywhere, and configure their email to allow their users to customize the solution to fit their needs and preferences.

Making it Modern: While the core email clients of Gmail and Outlook are robust and time tested, a wave of new email plugins and even entire new clients that layer over the core email system to provide additional functionality are becoming more popular. These enhancements turn your email client into an app ecosystem like a smartphone, greatly enhancing productivity and boosting user engagement. Organizations should work to enable the workforce to securely leverage these enhancements.

Technology #2 - Chat/Instant Messaging

Modern chat (or instant messaging) aims to digitize the art of conversation, where parties can speak and receive a response a few seconds later, mirroring the rapid banter of the water cooler or talking at your desk with a colleague.

Key Solutions:

  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams

Over the past few years, a new class of instant message applications has entered the market place following the trend set by Slack. In addition to traditional instant messaging, these tools allow users to set up different chat rooms, channels, or teams where many colleagues can chat together on specific topics.

Making it Modern: In addition to communication between people, these tools have increasingly provided a new way for users to access and monitor other business applications through integrations into the messaging platform. For example, the marketing team can be automatically alerted  when a lead comes from a form, or a fulfillment team can see when an order has been placed. Teams can then comment on, or about the activity happening in other platforms, therefore increasing visibility, accelerating response time, and preventing unnecessary switching costs from changing tools on a regular basis.

Technology #3 - Voice

While we may live in a world with self-driving cars (almost at least…), organizations still need to consider the good-old phone call—especially for call centers and support teams. There are times when you just need to pick up the phone and call a colleague or client. Modern telephony solutions typically leverage VoIP (Voice of Internet Protocol) to bring additional features to users such as call recording, encryption and data analysis for team management and compliance audits.

Key Providers:

  • RingCentral
  • 8X8
  • Nextiva

As with many digital workplace products, simplicity is key when selecting a telephony vendor. Something as core as picking up the phone should not require a detailed tutorial.

Making it Modern: It’s also important to consider integrations with your existing communication collaboration stack.: Does the vendor offer voicemail to email transcription? Does their mobile app allow people to call from their smartphone with their work number? Does the vendor provide the security and data you need for compliance?

Technology #4 - Video Conferencing

At the end of the day, humans are visually biased. Video communication is a modern addition to the traditional communication stack that allows us to better communicate and allows more nonverbal communication to come through to the “listener”. Video conference tools also allow for virtual presentations, keeping everyone focused on the same materials.

Key Solutions:

  • Zoom
  • BlueJeans
  • Google Meet
  • Microsoft Teams
  • GoToMeeting

Making it Modern: In this case, video conferencing may be one of the more recent additions to your communication stack, but making it modern requires ensuring it is usable so the value of the investment can be realized. The number of video conferencing options available today is mind-boggling, but organizations seeking to make the most of video conferencing should keep a focus on the basics.

  • Simple to use interfaces are critical to ensuring that every meeting doesn’t start ten minutes late due to “technical challenges”.
  • Evaluate the web, mobile, and desktop application experiences. It’s likely your team will need to leverage each of these from time to time and quality can vary widely between applications by the same vendors.
  • Consider the experience for external attendees: do they have to download another application? Can they leverage the full set of features? Will it work in their security environment? Nothing is worse than having to boot up another conferencing solution because someone couldn’t see the screen share!

Technology #5 - A Modern People Directory

Communication tools can only add value if your team members can get in touch with the right colleague. With cross-functional teams, distributed workforces, and a seemingly revolving door of internal transfers, promotions, and new joins, navigating the people side of the organization is a massive challenge.

People Directories give everyone in the organization a single place to go to discover their colleagues and to figure out how to get in touch. These tools aggregate information from all of your internal systems and provide single-source deep, user-editable profiles that allow your users to share their professional background with your organization. Attributes like skills, education, and internal projects along with  details like interests and previous roles gives users the chance to share beyond their job title.

Key Solutions:

  • We’re a bit biased here, but Sift is a pretty great enterprise solution.

Making it Modern: A modern people directory will be the search engine of your organization to find known and unknown colleagues. Whether they wish to initiate a video call, send an email, or just understand who is working on what project, the people directory  will be the first place your employees go to start their collaboration journey. In a recent investigative report, Sift found that over 99% of employees in over 130 organizations leverage the people directory. A copy of the report can be obtained here.

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The Forge

A monthly collection of the latest Sift content, thought pieces, and resources, we keep you updated on what's going on in the world of work and Sift.

In today's globally competitive environment, organizations are under increasing pressure to grow, innovate, and increase productivity. As a result, organizations will inevitably seek new technologies to unlock competitive advantage and derive more value from their workforce.

There is great value to be had in modern collaboration tools that are properly deployed and leveraged. These tools can have a massive impact on productivity, and employee experience ultimately allowing employees to work better, together.

Deploying new technology: one part science, one part art

It has also become increasingly clear that integrating these technologies into the working lives of employees requires a delicate combination of science and art. Organizations are ecosystems of technologies and workflows. Simply deploying another application into the fray rarely yields the desired results...and can have counterproductive impacts.

Organizations seeking to increase efficiency and improve their employee experience must walk a fine line: deploying new technologies with the goal of building a more connected and holistic experience.

So what are the right combinations? What combination of tools provides maximum value and maximum engagement while limiting app-fatigue?


The Core Elements of Modern Communication

The key to building a productive communication stack is to understand the different key components. Here are the five key technologies organizations should have in their modern communication stack.

Technology #1 - Email

Email is the tried and tested core of digital communication. While modern chat tools have been reducing intra-team email volume, for correspondence between departments or with external actors such as clients and vendors email still reigns supreme.

Key Solutions:

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Gmail

Effective utilization of email today is about more than providing a modern client. Organizations must also ensure secure access to email from anywhere, and configure their email to allow their users to customize the solution to fit their needs and preferences.

Making it Modern: While the core email clients of Gmail and Outlook are robust and time tested, a wave of new email plugins and even entire new clients that layer over the core email system to provide additional functionality are becoming more popular. These enhancements turn your email client into an app ecosystem like a smartphone, greatly enhancing productivity and boosting user engagement. Organizations should work to enable the workforce to securely leverage these enhancements.

Technology #2 - Chat/Instant Messaging

Modern chat (or instant messaging) aims to digitize the art of conversation, where parties can speak and receive a response a few seconds later, mirroring the rapid banter of the water cooler or talking at your desk with a colleague.

Key Solutions:

  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams

Over the past few years, a new class of instant message applications has entered the market place following the trend set by Slack. In addition to traditional instant messaging, these tools allow users to set up different chat rooms, channels, or teams where many colleagues can chat together on specific topics.

Making it Modern: In addition to communication between people, these tools have increasingly provided a new way for users to access and monitor other business applications through integrations into the messaging platform. For example, the marketing team can be automatically alerted  when a lead comes from a form, or a fulfillment team can see when an order has been placed. Teams can then comment on, or about the activity happening in other platforms, therefore increasing visibility, accelerating response time, and preventing unnecessary switching costs from changing tools on a regular basis.

Technology #3 - Voice

While we may live in a world with self-driving cars (almost at least…), organizations still need to consider the good-old phone call—especially for call centers and support teams. There are times when you just need to pick up the phone and call a colleague or client. Modern telephony solutions typically leverage VoIP (Voice of Internet Protocol) to bring additional features to users such as call recording, encryption and data analysis for team management and compliance audits.

Key Providers:

  • RingCentral
  • 8X8
  • Nextiva

As with many digital workplace products, simplicity is key when selecting a telephony vendor. Something as core as picking up the phone should not require a detailed tutorial.

Making it Modern: It’s also important to consider integrations with your existing communication collaboration stack.: Does the vendor offer voicemail to email transcription? Does their mobile app allow people to call from their smartphone with their work number? Does the vendor provide the security and data you need for compliance?

Technology #4 - Video Conferencing

At the end of the day, humans are visually biased. Video communication is a modern addition to the traditional communication stack that allows us to better communicate and allows more nonverbal communication to come through to the “listener”. Video conference tools also allow for virtual presentations, keeping everyone focused on the same materials.

Key Solutions:

  • Zoom
  • BlueJeans
  • Google Meet
  • Microsoft Teams
  • GoToMeeting

Making it Modern: In this case, video conferencing may be one of the more recent additions to your communication stack, but making it modern requires ensuring it is usable so the value of the investment can be realized. The number of video conferencing options available today is mind-boggling, but organizations seeking to make the most of video conferencing should keep a focus on the basics.

  • Simple to use interfaces are critical to ensuring that every meeting doesn’t start ten minutes late due to “technical challenges”.
  • Evaluate the web, mobile, and desktop application experiences. It’s likely your team will need to leverage each of these from time to time and quality can vary widely between applications by the same vendors.
  • Consider the experience for external attendees: do they have to download another application? Can they leverage the full set of features? Will it work in their security environment? Nothing is worse than having to boot up another conferencing solution because someone couldn’t see the screen share!

Technology #5 - A Modern People Directory

Communication tools can only add value if your team members can get in touch with the right colleague. With cross-functional teams, distributed workforces, and a seemingly revolving door of internal transfers, promotions, and new joins, navigating the people side of the organization is a massive challenge.

People Directories give everyone in the organization a single place to go to discover their colleagues and to figure out how to get in touch. These tools aggregate information from all of your internal systems and provide single-source deep, user-editable profiles that allow your users to share their professional background with your organization. Attributes like skills, education, and internal projects along with  details like interests and previous roles gives users the chance to share beyond their job title.

Key Solutions:

  • We’re a bit biased here, but Sift is a pretty great enterprise solution.

Making it Modern: A modern people directory will be the search engine of your organization to find known and unknown colleagues. Whether they wish to initiate a video call, send an email, or just understand who is working on what project, the people directory  will be the first place your employees go to start their collaboration journey. In a recent investigative report, Sift found that over 99% of employees in over 130 organizations leverage the people directory. A copy of the report can be obtained here.

Get Our Newsletter

The Forge

A monthly collection of the latest Sift content, thought pieces, and resources, we keep you updated on what's going on in the world of work and Sift.