Market musings

4 Essential Ingredients of an Agile Communications Plan

by Nina Quasebarth
May 16, 2017

Agility is something all businesses strive to master. An agile strategy means you are able to adapt to changing market conditions in order to stay ahead of the competition. Agile practices are becoming more common across all aspects of business. Agile project management, for example, deconstructs traditional, linear project management strategies and breaks the process into increments that can be modified and reassembled as the nature and scope of a project change. Agile software development also has become a common technique, where programmers write bits of code, test them, revise them, and then add new bits of code. The agile approach promotes better collaboration between disparate teams and breaks any project into basic components that serve as building blocks to be rearranged as needed.

In conducting day-to-day operations, you need the same level of agility in business communications.

Your team needs to be able to exchange information and collaborate quickly, so you need an agile communications strategy to keep employees connected. However, promoting effective communications has become more challenging as the number of channels grows. Today’s employees are constantly on the go or working remotely, so they rely on email, cell phones, cloud collaboration, and other tools to stay connected to the office. The objective of an agile communications plan is to assess your current communications channels, prioritize them, and organize them in a way that ensures effective communications and data exchange to shorten time to decision.

Everyone needs an Agile communications plan

No matter what the nature of your business, in today’s world, you need an agile communications plan. The internet has changed the way we approach communications, so there are many (perhaps too many) channels of communication. In addition to the traditional phone call, you can send a text message, initiate a chat session, send an email, post a query to a forum, or use other electronic channels to exchange information.

Your agile communications plan should be a tool to help employees prioritize interaction to shorten time to decision. Rather than relying solely on email, for example, which tends to give everything the same priority, you should create a hierarchy of channels to help employees collaborate. Here are four essential elements to consider when developing an agile communications plan:

1. Inventory your authorized communications channels. What channels do you use now for communications—telephone, email, chat, video conferencing? Make a list of approved channels and determine how they are currently being used and how they should be used.

2. Prioritize your channels. Assess how effective each channel is for the tasks at hand. For example, email has become a catch-all communications channel for many organizations. Are some issues, such as customer queries, better served by other means such as a phone call or some other channel where they will get proper attention?

3. Develop protocols for each channel. Promote a collaborative culture by encouraging use of channels such as the telephone. Consider how much more quickly a complex issue can be resolved in a five-minute phone call than in an email exchange over days or even weeks.

4. Equip and educate the team. Provide a set of guidelines for communications to help your team be more productive (e.g. when to phone and when to follow up with email). Also, be sure that your team has access to the right communications tools to do its job effectively.

Understand that the variety of available communications channels is actually undermining productivity. Addressing 600 incoming email messages with dozens marked “urgent” makes it impossible to prioritize and focus. That’s why your agile communications plan needs to provide a hierarchy of communications, providing a means to highlight issues that are truly urgent and relegate less important matters to secondary channels. Your plan has to help employees cut through the chatter and address those requests that drive business first.

Putting Agile communications in your pocket

Even though there are multiple tools available for communication, most channels work on today’s smartphones, so workers can remain accessible anywhere, anytime, which is becoming increasingly important for today’s mobile workforce. In addition to actual phone calls, smartphones support chat, email, voice conferencing, video conferencing, and even file sharing.

More organizations are building their agile communications around smartphone technology, leveraging their unified communications capability to power all business communications. The smartphone is the ideal UC platform, and can host a powerful VoIP business phone system. A virtual PBX can be deployed across your mobile phone infastructure, tied to a single business phone line or a virtual phone system, and managed from an app on your phone. 

As the workplace becomes more decentralized, companies are turning to technology such as Spoke to keep employees connected and help them prioritize communications.

Spoke is designed to convert employee smartphones into a next generation VoIP business phone system. Installed as a simple app, Spoke allows you to effortlessly route and prioritize incoming calls, set up group calling, look-up calling, create personalized greetings, access the employee directory, and more. To promote agile communications, Spoke also offers caller presence, call context, and importance to let people know why you are calling, as well as setting up reminders and rescheduling. There also are features such as auto-groups, auto-availability, and schedule availability.

And because employees are using their smartphones, they have access to all the other communications tools they might need, such as email and file sharing. For example, a phone call can readily be escalated to a group chat session or video conference, complete with reference materials, to quickly resolve a business issue.

However you approach agile communications, your best strategy is to funnel business-critical conversations to as few channels as necessary. Having employees rely on their smartphones for office communications is one means of keeping your team connected, while providing the tools to make fast, efficient business decisions.

To learn more about how Spoke can convert your mobile phone network into a powerful VoIP phone system for a fraction of the cost of hosted PBX or a traditional VoIP service providers, port your number over for a free, no risk trial, or choose a virtual business phone line. To learn more about how Spoke works, visit our features page or contact us for a free demo.