Business Communication Framework For The Coronavirus Era
This year, and most likely for the foreseeable future, many organizations will find themselves in the face of danger. The cause? Remote work. Yes, fast transition to remote work is dangerous for the business if you don’t prepare your team to handle the challenges you’ll be faced with.
Remote work might be a reason for inefficient communication which leads employees to lose business context, lose company knowledge, impede talks and navigation through business processes. People don’t see each other as often as they did in the office.
Beyond a knowledge challenge, it’s a far greater behavioral challenge. No need to get dressed up for the office, or to socialize with your team. And in case your employee suffers from lack of discipline, there’s no need to be effective since it’s likely to go unnoticed.
All the factors described above work together, but none of them work positively for business outcomes. All of them are the challenges of remote work, and dangerous for the health of the business.
Transition to remote work began more than 20 years ago, and it strongly accelerated this year. Many companies understand that a successful transition requires more than just making sure that their IT stack functions properly and staff can access the tools and data they need to do their jobs.
What many companies don’t realize is that being effective and efficient at work, while working remotely, also means working in a completely different context and collaborating in different ways. In this post, I’ll describe how we do it at Improvado.
Remote work is not something new to me. Over the last 10 years, I have traveled and worked remotely from many countries, across many timezones, and with teams spread across multiple continents. Through trial and error, I learned to be effective while being remote.
From the very beginning of my first business, in 2009 or maybe a bit earlier, I realized that I lack something called Memex. Memex (also called “at random”) is a portmanteau of "memory" and "index". Some personal place to store personal knowledge and navigate through it quickly.
Memex was originally described in the essay “As We May Think” in 1945 by American engineer Vannevar Bush. It was not the first, but the major part of what we call hypertext now. But hypertext as itself is not enough.
Almost at the same time I discovered the Google Waves project. It was very promising, but Google decided to stop the project for some reason. I personally didn’t like how Apache Foundation planned to develop an open source project based on Google Waves, so I decided to start my own such project, with black jack and mind maps. That’s how I started my startup called Rizzoma. However, it never skyrocketed as well as Apache Foundation’s project.
We’ve been using Rizzoma for sometime, but now we don’t. The project is still alive but we don’t support it. Now we use Quip instead.
I like some features of Rizzoma which Quip doesn’t have yet, like folding lists for example. However, the reason I eventually started working with Quip is it’s integration with Salesforce - it’s a game changing feature. Salesforce and Quip are two critical pillars of the communication framework. I’ll explain more below.
Quip is not the solution for all challenges faced while working remote. However, it definitely makes Improvado more resistant to these problems. Knowledge storing, structuring, and using our Contextual Communication Framework are areas where we see the most benefit from Quip.
Improvado’s Contextual Communication Framework
Internal communication in most companies works in a linear way. It means that information about the same project can be distributed through different communication tools: messages in Slack, comments in Google Spreadsheets, Confluence, Jira, or Asana.
Linear communication structures the context of the project in a chaotic chronological, and illogical way. This is the reason why some valuable knowledge collected across these communication tools can be lost, as it often does in messages or emails history. Over time,navigating through the project becomes more painful as information lies in many different areas.
At Improvado we use a Contextual Communication Framework. Instead of messaging in a chat, or making comments in a spreadsheet, or commenting on a task, we write in the context itself. The context typically lies in a relevant and meaningful place like a Quip document.
For example, information about creatives for Facebook Ads is stored in a document named “Facebook Ads”.
Discussions and comments appear relevant by meaning parts of the document's structure. This approach has a lot of advantages:
- If you write a question or comment not to a colleague in chat, but in a proper place in the quip document instead, there is a chance you’ll find an answer while navigating through the document. If not, after you’ll get the answer from another person, the next colleague won’t need to repeat the cycle of asking the same question. Knowledge and time are saved.
- Project documentation is never outdated, it evolves day by day as the project specs and scope change because all discussions are happening within the documentation topic itself.
- If there is a need to assign a task or notify a colleague about something new in the project we use @mentions feature or  tasks with a deadline within Quip.
Contextual communication framework is the primary principle of communication related to creative project management. Creative, or irregular communication is one of 4 types of internal communications.
The rest of the three secondary types of communication are: regular communication, real time communication, and collaborative analytics. There is a tool for each type.
For communication related to regular or repetitive tasks we use automated systems — Jira and Salesforce. Real time communication is for short messages like short simple questions, or reminders with links to tickets in Jira, or Quip doc. We use Google Chat for real time communication. Communication related to analytics appears in many tools: Quip Sheets, Salesforce, Google Spreadsheets, ImDataPrep (Improvado product).
If your team is more than 50 people, it is very important to have a single tool for knowledge base and creative management. And it should be deeply integrated with your regular management tool. We use Quip for this.
Despite the fact that working with complicated analytics is inconvenient in Quip, this tool is capable of combining all 4 types of communication with decent efficiency. With a proper usage of our communication framework it makes Quip the best tool I know at the moment.
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