How Technology has Improved Business Communications
Technology has changed our lives to the point where we hardly seem to notice it any more. It is all around us and in everything we do, from the electricity powering our homes to the broadband and wireless we use on our computers. Recent technological developments have led to our devices becoming smaller, faster and more mobile. We can now call someone on the other side of the world and talk with them via a video link on the screen of a smart phone.
But as much as technology has changed the way we communicate personally, it has truly revolutionised business communications; this article looks at the many ways this has happened and what the implications are for business.
New business communication tools
Where once we would have stored business information in filing cabinets, now the same information is referred to as ‘data’ and 99% of it is stored in digital form. What this means is that if someone in another city needs to see a file, instead of having to courier it to them overnight we simply attach it to an email and send it to them instantly.
The medium that has made this possible is the Internet. This revolutionary medium has allowed business communications to become faster, more efficient and completely free from geographical limitations.
The Internet has made possible a wide range of new business communication tools including:
- Email – This has become the main form of communication for many businesses, as it is relatively fast and very cheap and can be used to forward and receive additional files attached to each message.
- Instant messaging (IM) – IMing is faster and more convenient than email or telephone, and is an excellent way for employees to communicate with one another in real time.
- VoIP telephony – This has superceded analogue telephony and reduced the cost of business phone calls by more than half.
- Social media – Social media has allowed businesses to communicate on a much more personal level with their customers.
- Targeted advertising – Using tools such as Adwords, businesses can now target potential customers much more accurately.
- Cloud computing – This allows employees to maintain communications with the company and retrieve and send information from remote locations.
- Video conferencing – Video conferencing allows participants to attend virtual meetings with colleagues and clients via a video link on their tablets or smart phones.
- WebRTC – This is new technology being developed right now, which will allow businesses to communicate directly with customers via their websites using embedded audio and video applications.
As well as improving business communications through tools that use the power of the Internet, technology has also seen the development of many new applications that enhance communication power even further through integration.
- Google Chat – This app brings all of Google’s tools such as Google Search, Google Apps, Gmail and Google+ together on one platform, allowing users to make voice and video calls right from Gmail. It also keeps logs of every communication.
- Yammer – Much like Twitter only significantly more private, this application allows employees to log in using their company email addresses and chat, collaborate on projects and send messages to each other in their own private communication space.
- Teambox – This business collaboration app is a fully integrated project and task manager, providing a range of features including chat, text, planning tools, notes, file storage and even time tracking.
- GoToWebinar – This presentation application allows users to create webinars (web seminars) and address up to 1,000 people live online The app includes practice sessions, Q&A sessions and the ability to share additional documents.
The implications for business
As well as making business communications faster and more efficient, the development of these new communication tools and applications has also changed the way we do business in a number of areas.
- Mobility – Mobile communications that allow employees to access the office from anywhere has led to many businesses becoming more mobile. The head office with massive overheads has become less necessary, and downsizing and workspace sharing are becoming a more cost-efficient option.
- Outsourcing – Because employees can communicate from anywhere, housing them under one roof is no longer a necessity. This means that businesses can outsource many core processes such as accounts and IT and can also recruit further afield for employees.
- Globalisation – The ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime has also meant that businesses are no longer restricted to local markets, so are now free to trade with international businesses and develop new customer bases all over the world.
- Remote workforce – New communication tools also allow more employees to work from home, which saves a business money through not having to house employees in an office and also improves employees’ work/life balance. This in turn improves productivity.
- Reduced travel – Ironically, as the world is opened up through better communications the need to physically travel overseas is reduced. Video conferencing can save a business a great deal of money that would otherwise be spent on travel and accommodation expenses every year.
Technology has changed the face of business communication by making it faster, more efficient and more integrated than ever before. The price we pay for all this new openness and interconnectivity is the security risks it poses. But providing security measures can at minimum keep pace with new developments, then the opportunities technology offers for business communications outweigh those risks in the long run.