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The evolution of business communication from fax to email to – What now?

By Amritesh Anaand, Practice lead for Unified Communication at In2IT Technologies

Love them or hate them, emails are still considered the primary method of communication for most organisations. However, businesses are under increasing pressure to respond quickly to customer demands, spurring the need for faster internal communications, too.

Email, while convenient for record keeping, simply isn’t offering the convenience, efficiency or even correspondence chronology that businesses require to effectively respond to their market fast enough.

The increasing availability of Unified Communication (UC) tools, such as Instant Messaging (IM) platforms, machine-to-machine chat applications, like Skype, and Web Real Time Communication services are alleviating this pressure, helping businesses achieve efficient communication.

More and more businesses are embracing unified communication tools, enabling employees to quickly interact with each other and make faster decisions. Organisations who have not adopted a UC toolset specifically aimed at businesses are finding that employees are using their own messaging platforms as an alternative to email.

The risk with this approach is that businesses lose control of their data, as employees share files and release potentially sensitive company information into uncontrolled environments. It is therefore imperative that businesses either adopt their own instant communication tool designed with business security in mind or ensure that their policies around data security are sound, effectively communicated and enforced.

Unfortunately, a sound data security policy rarely allows for effective use of public, or potentially insecure instant communication tools, forcing employees to stick to traditional email – which is not the most productive communication tool available.

So, what’s out there?

Many office productivity suites offer communication tools, or platforms that integrate with their other applications. Most of these tools have built in options which allow for screensharing, easy document sharing and even collaborative workspaces, or virtual meeting rooms, where teams can work together on a single project from multiple, remote locations.

There are also IM applications available specifically for business, which allow for safe, secure and fast communication tools.

In a world where organisations are increasingly embracing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture, these tools need to be able to work across various different hardware models, from mobile phones to laptops.

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is another tool that is gaining traction, as it requires no downloading of software plug ins, and it can be used on any device with an internet connection and a web browser. Essentially, this tool allows users to make calls between two or more users using data. It is safe, and incredibly easy to use.

What do businesses really need to know?

Security is one of the biggest concerns for enterprises, today, especially as the value of data increases and the loss of that data threatens not just a business’s ability to operate efficiently, but also their reputation and regulatory compliance. Too many unauthorised communication tools being used by employees to transmit company information poses a huge risk and minimises the control a business has over its data.

It’s important that businesses decide on which tool they want to use, and then define parameters around its use. Part of that should include the purpose of the tool and strict rules and controls around privacy, access and data sharing, to ensure that security is maintained.

In a business employing a BYOD policy, the chosen tool needs to work with all devices, and needs to enable effective, clear communication.

What about email?

Email is still an important part of businesses and is unlikely to be phased out any time soon, especially as businesses cater to multigenerational customers where many still prefer email correspondence over other forms.

For archiving and maintaining records, email is still among the most effective tools. For businesses who want to achieve the agility, speed to market and flexibility required to remain ahead of competition, though, it’s vital to adopt a more modern platform for on-the-go communication and collaboration.

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