When it comes to the means of office communication, the tools which we use on a daily basis as part of our work, we nowadays have multiple options. However, when you carefully inspect one’s daily communication behavior, it seems that e-mail and voice (either POTS or IP voice) are still king (and Cisco’s recent acquisition of PostPath proves it). IM is the fresh prince of corporate air, while visual communications – video conferencing, in standard definition and high definition – are the new kid on the block, starting to be deployed on corporate networks, but their adoption is slow.
Everyone seems to be asking the billions-of-dollars question:
What will be the office communication means of choice in a year, 2 years or 5?
I’d like to borrow from my next door neighbor Tsahi, and suggest a different way of looking at it: different communication means give different experience to users. So why not use them all?
Office Communication Means and the Communication Service Model
In his post, Tsahi suggested that any kind of network based communication service between people can be defined by a set of 4 parameters: bandwidth, immediacy, direction and participation. As we are discussing here, means of communication, which are used daily and by everyone for collaboration, I’ve added another two relevant parameters – ease of use and level of collaboration that is offered.
So here’s how those office communication means (legacy, new and future ) measure up:
|Ease of Use||Easy||Easy||Very Easy||Less Easy||Less Easy|
- IM is considered to be Synchronous, but one may argue that if the other party’s client is closed and/or the other party is unavailable, it is an asynchronous experience.
- IM is considered to be Bidirectional, but one may argue that if the other party’s client is closed and/or the other party is unavailable, it is a unidirectional experience.
- E-mail can be a 1:1 as well as a 1:N experience, depending on the type of e-mail chosen.
- IM is usually a 1:1 service, but today’s IM clients can broadcast IM messages in a 1:N mode as well.
- POTS is usually a 1:1 service, but today’s PBXs offer N:N services as well.
All of these can be roughly divided into three groups:
- E-mail – Although inferior in most parameters, it is an easy to use, low bandwidth, collaborative tool, and therefore it is no surprise that it became the de-facto standard for corporate communication.
- IM, voice – They are easy to use, low in bandwidth, and offer a easy and therefore very good experience (synchronous, bi-directional). Again, it is no wonder EVERYONE is using the phone and IM client.
- Visual Communications – It is not really important if we are talking about Video Conferencing, High Definition Video Conferencing or Telepresence. All consume large amounts of bandwidth (some more than others), and although offer great features (N:N connectivity, for instance), they are harder to use and less intuitive. Therefore, they are still not as popular.
Office Communication Means in our Daily Behavior
If you want to send a colleague a message with a rather large amount of data, and immediacy is not top priority, e-mail would remain the best solution. It’s easy, quick and it does the job.
If there is a need for immediacy and bi-directional experience is important, one has a choice between voice and IM. Voice is more personal, but has a lower level of collaboration (no data).
If a high level of collaboration is essential, visual communication is a necessity. Depending on the level of in-person interaction expected, and the resource (bandwidth, equipment) availability policy in the organization, one can choose between legacy, high definition or next-generation video conferencing systems.
Office communication means… Why not use all?!
These communication means are quite different in nature even though they can be used for the same task – communicating. Therefore, it seems that none of them are going to vanish, although there may be one that dominates the market – but even so, they may all come to serve us differently.
We have all learned to use these means, some if not all, and work around them so that the latency of changing between them is minimized. Unified Communications vendors are working hard to get them to be as unified as they possibly can be. So there shouldn’t be any need to choose one tool over the other, why not use them all and communicate better?!