Friday, January 16, 2009

Which communication method and when?

While this posting doesn't just deal with Enterprise Architecture it does begin to explore how we choose the tool (from quite a wide array) that we might choose for a communication at any given moment.

Just thinking of my own case, I have an unseemly number of communication mechanisms/paths.

For work - 3 email accounts (my employer and 2 clients)
For my business 1 email account
For other purposes 5 email accounts

2 Instant Messenger accounts
2 Groove Ids (for secure file sharing and messaging)
2 blogs (cooking and this one)

Telephone/voicemail (4 numbers) - 1 mobile 1 home, 2 clients
Several RSS feeds on news, technology, etc.
Text messaging
Corporate sharepoint
Client wiki

These obviously aren't all 2-way, but having 25 major channels - and following several news sources, a few Twitter folks that I follow(about 50) it is clear that I have oo much time on my hands!

So why do it? It really comes down to personae and convenience. Taking just the corporate emails - each company (including my employer) has its own email infrastructure. Each client uses its own email addressing scheme to send stuff around. I can't get from one client's system into another's (and nor should I be able to).

If I am doing frivolous things, I tend to use my hotmail account. If I am doing semi-serious, but still relatively public things, I use my gmail account. For my own business and when I know the person at the other end, I tpically use my own business email.

Twitter is a great source of interesting updates. Admittedly of the 500 or so Tweets/day that I receive, about 50 are interesting to me and about 30 really interesting. So my filters are not as good as they could be.

I use the phone, but not a lot. Most of my communication is asynchronous. I text a lot, contribute to my own blogs, read a bunch of news sources. The only things I don't seem to do are listen to/download music or video.

So why is this important from a business perspective? Because we each make our own choices about which media to use. The enterprise needs to enable many different channels for the various purposes.

Is Twitter a corporate tool? Absolutely - especially for corporate travel departments. It's the easiest way to get information out quickly.

Is Facebook a corporate tool? Absolutely - keping track of alumni, enabling corporate communities (extending the ecosystem).

Are blogs corporate tools? Absolutely - a great way for the corporation to provide an authentic experience to the community.

Is Groove a corporate tool? Absolutely - secure internal and external file and message sharing.

Is IM a corporate tool? Absolutely - again enabling community.

Is email a corporate tool - sadly yes. But as we have observed many times, it is very heavyweight. Sometimes the only way to get information in and out of corporations.

Phone/Voicemail? Absolutely.

I would argue that every form of communication that I use has its place in my daily corporate life. Even hotmail and gmail have helped when the corporate network is down and I have to get a response out.

Enterprise are really going to have to rethink communication - recognizing that critical information is going to leak over many channels. Draconian security groups will simply be bypassed since information will continue to flow.

Then we have the symmetry/asymmetry question. How much of what I do is simply reading other people's stuff (following them personally, subscribing to their publications or what?) vs engaging in dialog.

When dialog of some kind is needed, which of the many tools I have at my disposal do I use? My rule of thumb is whatever the person I am communicating with last used when talking to me. Of course it depends on whether it is a single short thought (twitter), a complex large file (Groove/email/SharePoint) or something in between....