Does this situation sound all too familiar? You send an email to a client from your office only to pull up his response via your smartphone hours later that night only to call him on the phone the next morning to discuss his response. In other words, by the time the exchange is done you and your client have relied on several different communications portals to address one single point.  

The fact is,  however, that today’s 21st century workforce is swimming in a sea of avant-garde communications platforms from instant message (IM) to SMS (or text messaging) to email to phone and each has a specific place in the corporate world, depending on the situation.

Take SMS for example. While it may sound surprising, 79 percent of bosses are in favor of business texting and 32 percent of executives have in fact closed a corporate deal through text message. Instant messaging is becoming just as ubiquitous with big-name companies like Microsoft going so far as to offer tips on how to weave IM into your corporate strategy.

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But with so many vehicles at your disposal, how do you know which one to use over the other? And, more importantly, what will your decision reveal about you? Let’s take a look at best practices for some of the most bleeding-edge collaboration tools currently rocking the business world:

IM: The World of Instant Gratification

Perhaps one of the biggest boons of instant messaging is the immediacy of the platform. For example, looking for a quick response as to where your latest investor slide deck is located? Then send an IM to your coworker three doors down. Hoping to see if three members of your team are free to meet in the board room in a few? Then get a group message together. IM should be used for the following scenarios:

  • When a one-sentence answer will suffice: If you are looking for a lengthier explanation or rationale behind something, email is better.
  • When you need to ping someone: Is a member of your team late for a call with a key stakeholder? Go with the IM. It’s much more likely to catch their attention than that hasty email that will get sucked into their vortex of unread emails.
  • When it’s not business-critical: There are many business matters that require quick “yes/no” responses. If you are looking for any more detail, though, stick to the phone.

SMS: A Privilege Not to Be Abused

The danger in relying on SMS as a communications vehicle is you can easily abuse its privileges. After all, 44 percent of cell phone users sleep with their mobile device by their side so that they don’t miss a notification. Imagine how wrong your inquiry could go if you SMS a client after hours once he or she is already asleep. So how do you know if SMS is OK to use? Start by asking yourself three very simple questions:

  1. Can my message wait until morning?
  2. Is this too complicated of a problem to discuss via text messaging?
  3. Will the person who receives this text message—and perhaps look down on—this method of communication?

Your answers will reveal the best route.

Email: When a Paper Trail is Needed

There is a wealth of benefits afforded by email communications—namely the ability to create paper trails and archived message threads. Email enables you and your team to create threads of communication, archive pertinent conversations and elucidate on any number of topics as there is no character constraint. This form of collaboration is most useful when:

  • You need multiple parties to weigh in—but to be able to edit their remarks before pushing send (something SMS and IM doesn’t always afford).
  • You are discussing something that has legal, compliance or contractual implications. Therefore, a paper trail is a must.
  • There is nothing emotional about what is being discussed (i.e. tone cannot be misinterpreted).
  • You will need to be able to seamlessly access this conversation again.


Choosing the Right Vehicle for You

Without question different scenarios will warrant different vehicles but each presents a wealth of opportunity for unified collaboration. For complete productivity, many companies are searching for central online collaboration platforms that unify desktop, phone and messaging platforms into a single click application. To learn more about 21st century technology tools and how they can work together to bolster efficiencies, click here

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