Market musings

How Agile Communication Can Foster Small-Business Growth

by Nina Quasebarth
November 8, 2017

Small-business growth requires adaptability. Business conditions change, often quite rapidly, and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to be ready to act to keep up. Agile business practices require agile communication strategies. Your team has to be able to share information quickly for fast decision-making. Every SMB needs an agile communication strategy to stay competitive and prosperous.

Agile Communication Is Horizontal

Like agile management strategies, agile communication is horizontally structured so that all team members contribute. With an agile organizational structure, management has to surrender much of its control, relying on the judgment of those employees in direct contact with customers, vendors, and partners. The role of the manager becomes one of enabler, helping employees achieve their full potential and effectiveness and removing any obstacles that get in their way.

Hierarchical organizations where the boss handles all the decisions can’t support agile communication.

Traditionally, the manager identifies the tasks that need to be completed, assigns those tasks with instructions, and ensures the work is done. With this structure, the boss becomes the communication hub, and the bottleneck, with information flowing up to management for decisions.

In an agile company, the top-down communication model is replaced with more of a yo-yo model, where communication flows up and down the hierarchy to shorten time to decision. Management’s job is no longer delegation but education: forming teams and educating them about larger company goals that affect the outcome of their work. By better educating employees, the teams now can work autonomously, establishing their own goals to match corporate objectives. The result is more employee investment and satisfaction, better job performance, and the ability to adapt more rapidly to changing conditions.

Agile Communication Resolves Issues Faster

Once an agile communication framework is constructed with clearly defined objectives, the teams are free to help tackle problems in a manner that more quickly adapts to changing customer and market needs. Let’s consider some examples.

With agile software development, for example, applications are created using a cross-functional team that builds, tests, and refines software in stages. Rather than developing an entire software product for release, agile software is created in increments, and each step is tested and modified as needed. The value of agile software development is that applications continuously evolve and improve. Ongoing testing provides immediate feedback that informs the next software release.

Here’s another example. Customer service receives a call from a dissatisfied customer. A delivery problem has disrupted service, and the customer wants the problem solved, as well as a refund. With the traditional, hierarchical management approach, the customer service representative might take down the necessary information and generate a trouble ticket to pass the problem along for resolution. The problem is addressed, but the outcome is less than satisfactory; the customer’s needs are not met, so he or she goes to a competitor.

In an agile environment, the customer service team has more authority to address the issue. Agile communication allows the service rep to directly contact the person who can resolve the customer’s problem. If the problem is complex and can’t be resolved quickly, the service rep can take the initiative to offer a credit on the spot or provide a discount or some other benefit as compensation. The customer’s needs may not have been met, but the customer is satisfied he or she has been heard and the company cares about his or her business because the customer received something for his or her trouble. The response promotes customer loyalty because the customer service team has the power to act independently.

Technology Powers Agile Communication

To implement an agile communication strategy, you need the technology to enable real-time communication. Technology can shorten time to decision and provide a record and analytics tools as well. There are a variety of collaboration tools that support agile communication:

  • Cloud IT infrastructure Seventy-four percent of tech CFOs predict that cloud computing will have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017, and more SMBs are migrating to the cloud to stay agile. Cloud-based services make collaboration easier at reduced costs, and they support mobile workers and telecommuters as well.
  • Remote project management – Hiring more contractors and part-time employees increases production capacity while controlling payroll costs, and remote project management tools make it easier to manage remote staff.
  • Business intelligence analytics – Adopting an agile management strategy makes it harder to gain visibility into team activities, which makes it more difficult to assess sales and marketing budgets and minimize wasted dollars. Business intelligence tools provide answers to key questions, such as cost per sale and where to invest marketing dollars for your best return.
  • Cloud productivity tools – The number of telecommuters has increased 115 percent over the last decade. As more employees work remotely, SMBs need to find new ways to enable remote collaboration. Cloud productivity suites are enabling employees to share files and applications in the cloud using desktop, laptop, or smartphone applications. Cloud office suites such as Office 365, Zoho Online Office Suite, and Google’s G Suite make it easier to collaborate by sharing documents and files in real time.
  • Unified communications – Real-time agile communications are powered by technology such as unified communications (UC). UC integrates a variety of communication tools into a single platform, so team members can connect using email, chat, phone, video, audio, screen sharing, and other tools, all in real time from the same device. UC is becoming a popular tool for both desktop and mobile users.

All of these technologies enable real-time collaboration using desktop computers or mobile devices, and that is the essence of agile communication. Productivity tools such as Spoke help keep employees connected so that they can deal with urgent business issues. Spoke turns any smartphone into a virtual office extension, allowing incoming calls to be seamlessly routed to your smartphone, wherever you are. And Spoke includes features such as auto attendant, voicemail, group calling, hunt groups, smart directories, and other features that help team members connect quickly. And because Spoke runs on your smartphone, users have access to voicemail, chat, teleconferencing, and other communication tools.

Agile communication is the foundation of growth for businesses of any size.

To outpace the competition, SMBs need to have better intelligence and be prepared to make decisions faster. Applying agile communication with the help of tools such as Spoke can give your SMB a real competitive advantage.   

The Productivity Hacker's Guide to Integrating Remote Teams
The Productivity Hacker's Guide to Integrating Remote Teams