Since the onset of the COVID19 crisis, we have nearly all become experts at instant messaging and online conferencing for our real-time communication, whether for social interaction with friends and family, or for working at home. According to Zoom, their daily users spiked to 200 million in March 2020, compared with 10milliion in December 2019.1 In March 2020, WhatsApp and other social media apps reported user growth of 40% or more, and up to 76% in some individual markets.2
So we are in general well equipped and reasonably well-versed in using real-time digital collaboration, which goes some way to setting us up for working from home. But, particularly in these times, good employers recognise that their staff need the latitude to deal with other priorities for their family, friends and neighbours.
We may not always be able, nor necessarily be expected, to answer a phone call, attend a web meeting, or immediately respond to instant messaging. Talking and communicating in real time with our colleagues is great, and to an extent necessary for team cohesion, but most of work collaboration can be done asynchronously. That was true with email, and is even more true with professional digital collaboration tools.
How and when we respond to email or chat messages is of course as much a matter of culture and habit, but there is nothing intrinsic about email and chat forms of digital communication that demands immediate responses. That is of course notwithstanding the compulsive habits we have developed in our private lives with consumer tools like WhatsApp, but there is no reason why to some extent we cannot treat our collaboration inbox just as in days gone past the way we treated our paper in-tray (those that remember such things). We deal with incoming items at the appropriate time, and give them due consideration before responding or taking action.
There are a number of capabilities that need to be present in business collaboration software in order to help people do that.
For example, so we can completely and quickly understand what we are dealing with when joining or re-joining a conversation, we need to see the entire conversation and all cross-referenced items so we have the full context available. That is not something that is so easy with email, or with simple chat tools, where key information, documents, other comments, etc. will be located in other emails, shared storage, portals, systems of record, etc. In a fully capable enterprise collaboration tool, it is easy to navigate within even a long conversation, following discussion threads and clicking directly to review related content, tasks or other chats, and to identify other people who are likely to have relevant knowledge or expertise.
We also need to be made aware of those items which do require more urgent attention, so a means of flagging up items directly addressed to you, automatically highlighting communications that have due dates or are likely to have a high priority are all features which are important to ensure important or time sensitive actions are not missed.
These are just some of the features in Vmoso that help people working remotely from an office or from their colleagues to keep productive, and also manage their time even during times when the demand between work, home, family and social activities is unusually balanced. Future blogs will discuss other considerations for digital engagement in business, whether within the workforce, between organisations, or in the context of customer experience.
Here at BroadVision we use a combination of Vmoso and Zoom for our collaboration. We have been working as a global, distributed team with many of us working from home offices for many years now. So if you want to talk to someone about how to set up your colleagues for working remotely, feel free to get in touch.