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Communication And Technology In The Workplace

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A common dilemma facing businesses large and small alike is how best to equip

their staff to deliver the largest amount of productivity, weighed against

the increasing costs of the technology necessary to deliver that productivity.

Lately there seems to be no shortage of new technology, including a multitude

of pagers, cell phones, and Blackberry-esque devices to choose from based

on a company's fancy... or budget.

There is a difference, however, between the myriad of choices available to

consumers and whether or not the correct device exists for one's needs.

A pager, almost an antiquated device these days, only lets its user know

of a short message or phone number to regard; a cell phone is usable only

when a strong enough signal is available, and Blackberry-type devices are

great for two-way communication via email and telephony, but present very

real cost hurdles.

Let's put cost hurdles aside for the sake of argument. Granted, that's

a loaded request, as if we could so easily disregard the cost of items,

we would have little dilemma about which technology to implement to meet

our needs. Try it though, you'll like it.

Clearly a fully-functioning computer is going to offer the most amount

of flexibility and communication potential, save for the use of a telephone.

Email and messaging capabilities are often the most efficient way of sending

information to large groups at once; whereas the telephone offers speed of

connectivity, provided you have a clear signal and your recipient is able to

answer the call. The natural extension of these two technologies ends up as

a melding of each, into one device. If presented with a colleague who

won't/can't/doesn't answer the telephone, send an email message; if you

can't be bothered to type anything more than a few characters, create a

"call me @ 555-1212" message and tap Send; if you need to send

a file while sitting in traffic, pen a real email with an attachment.

Additionally, it's important to not load down your workers with a

multitude of devices. They have to want to use what's issued to them

because it makes their job easier, faster, better, six-million-dollar-man-like,

not reach for five different pieces of electronics strapped to various places

on their body. They'll have to work on relying on a new piece of equipment in

addition to their everyday computer, but won't have to carry several different

things to get their jobs done. As a business, you'll have to work on justifying

the costs, both intellectual and actual, of rolling out a new technology.

Fortunately for you, a few of those justifications are below.


Access not only to information, but to people as well. The file does you no good

without context. The person does you no good without the detail contained in

the file. Miss one, and you miss meeting the deadline, signing the contract,

closing the deal. There was a meeting scheduled for this afternoon... your managers

didn't know to attend because they were attending other meetings and weren't

next to the laptop. The client calls and says everything is perfect except for

that one file they've misplaced. "Can you resend it please?"

"Sure, as soon as I get back to the office." Too late, another

vendor stepped in. It's just that fast.


Communication is quite distinct from accessibility. Being able to touch someone

electronically does no good without the context need to interpret those touches.

Once a fire starts to burn, it's the manager's responsibility to wield the extinguisher.

If you get a page or email of simply "help, the client is unhappy,"

you're powerless to do anything without situational context. Talking someone

through an issue cannot be replaced by a volley of emails or text messages, no

matter how neat the device is you're sending them with.


Access and communication are useless if the technology deployed is counterintuitive

or counterproductive. Having managers carry twelve-pound-anythings means they won't

use them. Issuing devices with less than the necessary functionality are as useless

as those left in their cases. A small, functional, clear and always-on device will

be able to meet the accessible and communicative needs of today's fast-paced businesses.

Return On Investment

Yes, I asked you to disregard money for a moment, but that's over. Welcome back.

The cost of implementing the technology necessary to fully equip your workforce,

even if only at the management level, must be recouped in a very real fashion.

There is no getting around the initial, and often very large, cost of this kind of

implementation. What a business is able to show as a result of the investment

is where the real value will be apparent. These results are often indirectly

proven: increased customer satisfaction, improved employee efficiency, faster

reaction times to issues, and a more efficient, more informed workforce.

These so-called 'soft dollars' may sound trivial, but you'll be hard-pressed

to argue against increasing customer satisfaction, employee efficiency, reaction

times, et cetera.

Not every employee needs a $600 neat-o device in addition to their laptop/desktop

or whatever other technology issued to them. Those employees charged with managing

other employees, managing clients, or otherwise responsible for ensuring the business

runs as efficiently as possible should have all of the tools necessary to make

these goals a reality. Budget is also a clear factor, as not every business will

be able to equip their force with the latest and greatest. In both cases, the onus

falls on the business to research the available technology and determine which

implementation best suits their needs and the needs of their clients, employees,

and stakeholders.

Even though the initial outlay for such a rollout usually requires a significant

amount of capital, remember the return on investment is measured in long term

productivity and efficiency. Businesses better able and more equipped to respond

to their customer's needs are going to beat their competitors to the punch every

single time. By taking advantage of the fusing of communication with available technology,

and properly leveraging that fusion, you'll stay right where you want to be: at

your customer's fingertips and first on their minds.

Salvatore is a project manager at Infinity Software Development, Inc. in Tallahassee, Florida. He also maintains and

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