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Business, Society - Written by on Monday, August 31, 2009 6:52 - 6 Comments

Laura M.  Carrillo
Navigating Your 2.0 Networks: Your Best Option May Still be to Pick up a Telephone

As I continue my study of how collaboration tools are providing value in the enterprise, I keep coming back to the fact that much of the real value comes from the knowledge the user has about which networks and channels work best for what. Five years ago, you knew that reaching one VP was most efficiently accomplished via telephone, reaching a specific sales person worked best via email, and that one Director would react only when you could catch him/her in person. Today, the channels to connect with people have grown immensely via tools like Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Yammer and many others. While this creates the wonderful ability to maintain and reach a broader network of individuals it also creates a more complex web of networks to negotiate. If not used appropriately, the efficiency gains one might expect from collaborative tools could actually add to your workload vs. making you a more productive and efficient professional. Below are a few personal examples illustrating how I’ve used 2.0 tools to improve efficiency and add value to my work.

1. Over a year ago I was scheduled to speak with 2 executive clients at a large manufacturing company. The purpose of the call was to interview them for a research study our team was conducting on how collaboration tools are forcing companies to redefine their employee computing environments. The problem was that I only had first and last names of the contacts; I had no titles, departments or backgrounds. In this case the set of interview questions were specifically tied to individual’s roles, so I had no idea what question set to use. As is often the case, I was preparing for the next day at 9pm the night before, so I did not have a lot of options. I crossed my fingers and conducted a search on LinkedIn, hoping that at least one of the executives had a public profile. Thankfully they both did! Not only was I able to see their current job titles, I could also see their backgrounds. Based on this more detailed information we were able to adjust our questions, leading to a much more fruitful discussion. This relatively short preparation and interaction not only helped us to gather some great data points; it also helped my company develop a stronger client relationship. BTW: Yes, after the call I did “Link” to both executives on LinkedIn, along with my usual “thank you for speaking with us” message. This is quickly becoming a best practice for follow-up and maintenance of client relations.

2. Just this Friday I was brainstorming with my Manager about ideas for my research on the ROI of collaboration. While I have the bulk of the study completed, I will spend this week pulling together a few more useful examples. My Manager suggested I reach out to a company; we’ll call XYZ Corp., who he had met with a while ago. The problem was that he could not recall the name or contact details of the individual he had spoken with. Fortunately he did know one of our co-workers who might have a contact. While still on the phone I jumped on Twitter and sent her a DM (Direct Message) to see if she had a current contact at XYZ Corp. Within minutes I had a DM back with name, title, email and phone details. The value here was not just in the quick response but in knowing that the quickest way to reach the person I needed was via Twitter, not Gmail, Skype or IM. If she was only a casual Twitter user it may have taken a few days to hear back so the efficiency would have been lost.

3. One last example occurred after “business hours” (does that still apply anymore?). It was late and I was preparing for an early morning client discussion. I had two quick questions that could only be answered by one of our head engineers. I knew that an email would most likely sit until the morning. I also knew that this individual was often on Facebook so I logged in and spent 5 minutes chatting with him. This short interaction provided the information I needed to have a successful interaction with our client the next day.

Have I measured or monetized the time savings, productivity gains or added value of these activities? No, and I have found very few companies that have. However, I don’t think anyone would argue the value derived from these interactions, especially given the quick turnaround required and achieved. The important take away is not how many people you’re connected to, or how many networks you participate in, it’s all about knowing how to navigate each channel to get what you need in the most efficient way possible. It’s also important to note that in some cases the best option is to forgo 2.0 tools altogether and simply pick up a telephone.



6 Comments

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Tim
Aug 31, 2009 10:52

Good advice all around. Now, knowing how to reach someone seems more important than ever precisely because of all the options everyone has for contacting them.
I’ve noticed with my own adult children and nephews and even my sisters that the cell “phone” is not really for talking as much as it is for texting – strictly asynchronous communications – they never answer the phone unless we are in the middle of some activity that requires updating – like, where are you now? Probably an app for finding them . . .

kgs
Aug 31, 2009 13:29

Last year net users were talking about orkut, flickr, youtube and other social networking websites. Now the trend is for facebook and twitter who knows which website will pull more crowd in the coming year.
What about the return on time invested(ROTI) for the browsers.

Lance Kaldor
Aug 31, 2009 17:34

Really, did you give any thought to whether or not the engineer was socializing with someone else when you found him in the cyber world? THis what concerns me about all this, the engineer was off work, you say yourself “it was late.” Was really right for yout ocontact him/her in his/her off hours. This is what needs to stop. The more everyone in an organization accepts this intrusion into off time, the more corporate America will deem this acceptable and okay to do until the poor worker has no time for socializing and it is all work all the time.

Laura
Aug 31, 2009 18:38

Excellent points by all, thank you.
kgs: you’re right about the speed these new sites are introduced and take off. It’ll be interesting to keep track of which ones make it and which ones fizzle. As I’m sure you know, YouTube specifically is still growing and doing well.

Lance, some context that I did not include in the piece: the engineer and I know each other well, well enough to tell each other to “buzz off” if we’re in the middle of something else. Also, out of courtesy, if I’m ever contacting someone outside of usual business the first message is something like: “Hey Joe, are you busy?” Given the global nature of business I am familiar with many people who conduct work during “off hours” to accommodate co-workers or partners in other parts of the world. The good news is that often times this can allow employees some added flexibility during the “regular” day to conduct personal business without taking official timeoff i.e. going to see a child in a school play, or taking a parent to the airport. You do bring up a very good point; businesses (starting with top executives leading by example) need to set expectations of what is appropriate for employees response time and overall work hours. But I also believe that it is up to each individual professional to set expectations with their colleagues regarding how reachable they are on and off the clock.

Reflecting on “Navigating Your 2.0 Networks: Your Best Option May Still be to Pick up a Telephone « Fredzimny’s CCCCC Blog
Sep 3, 2009 5:56

Barb Chamberlain
Sep 9, 2009 23:57

For me it’s a question not only of which channel(s) someone might use habitually, but which allows the type of interaction you need whether it’s asynchronous or real time, short or extended.

I’d agree especially with your final point: The more channels I’m on, the more I appreciate the phone (for talking, not just texting). I’ve taught myself that if I start typing “We should discuss…” in an email, I should pick up the phone and DISCUSS. Ditto for scheduling anything with only one other person–5 rejected and amended Outlook calendar requests are really inefficient.

Another complicating factor: The people who don’t know you well enough to pick the best channel, so they ping you on everything possible. Once I’ve sorted through all the messages, I’ve used up the time I would have had to actually answer one of them.

I keep hoping that people who do that will pay attention to the particular response channel I choose and use that one in the future.

@BarbChamberlain (one of the best ways to reach me–at least right now)

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