The on-going explosion of new technology shapes our ability to react and respond to the needs of others. It also shapes the future in building relationships. We are more and more technologically interdependent with our families, our friends, our communities, and our business partnerships. Think about the ease and speed of communication that takes place through the internet. How were any of us able to build or maintain relationships in the past? From on-line learning, to on-line family reunions, to on-line networking groups, to working on a project, to e-lawyering, we are able to electronically “meet” in the magical place of virtual reality. We are able to make connections literally all over the world twenty-four hours a day. The Internet has radically changed the way communication takes place.
In a world that has become so highly interactive, how we develop business partnerships and conduct business must take into consideration communication technology. There is a lot of discussion about the technology that is available today. In fact, in his article, Future Watch: An Overview of Trends, Lowell Wolff says that the rapidity of technological change will continue to accelerate. He says that ‘the next three decades will bring two centuries worth of change’! Two centuries! In other words, in the next seven minutes, the same amount of change will occur as did in the last thirty years!
Even non-tech people find this pretty exciting. It is also exciting to think of the potential of possibilities that arise from this phenomenon. As our possibilities increase, so does our need to increase our capability to better decide which technology will help support our business and our relationships. Being aware of the vast channels of communication and deciphering which of these channels to use in a given relationship and situation is also an important consideration.
This strategy reviews the major communication technologies present today, and provides thinking points for you to consider as you choose the communication channel that works for you and your business partner. Developing a presence, technologically speaking, calls for examining the communication channels. To be out there in the business world, we must do our homework.
A Technological Presence
While voice mail and fax communication will continue to exist and be expected, consider the following:
- Web Presence
- Internet Services
- Virtual Offices
- Digital Communication
- Expert Systems
In his book Net Future, Chuck Martin states that ‘for most customers, what they see at a company’s web site determines their view of the company’. A company is expected to have a web presence. While some companies allocate limited marketing dollars to maintain a minimal web presence, others are forging new relationships with their customers and redefining themselves for the on-line world.
The web provides unprecedented opportunity for companies to interact with organizations and individuals all over the world. What a contrast to what was done in the past! Now, in addition to company brochures and annual reports as the major forum for promoting organizations, with a web presence, you are literally only a fingertip away.
The World Wide Web, a virtual commercial district, is here to stay. Customers book air travel, conduct home-line shopping, and surf the net to conduct business around the globe. This has allowed organizations to drastically cut their investments in inventories, lower the cost of real estate, and create new opportunities every single day. Warren Bennis talks about the future of banks reducing support to: a computer, a person, and a dog. The person feeds the dog, and the dog is there to guard the computer. Fargo IBM is an example of this. Fargo IBM went from three floors of a downtown bank to three rooms according to Lowell Wolff in his Future Watch writings. With the ability to interact and the connectivity of interdependent technologies, this is just one example of technology’s revolutionary impact on an organization.
If you had to choose just one characteristic of the Internet that sets it apart from just about everything else, surely it would be its interactivity. Quickly, efficiently, and effectively you are able to interact with others around the world.
A few weeks ago, I was on-line emailing a colleague of mine. An instant message appeared before me from an individual from London whom I had met flying from Detroit to Paris a few years ago. He was in Sweden working with a client. I chatted for a few minutes with him, and then noticed I had two pieces of mail in my in-box. I moved over to my mailbox, and pulled up an email from a friend and business partner from New Zealand. The other message was from family in France. In just minutes, time and distance were truly an illusion. Our world is getting smaller based on the many communication and technological vehicles that are available.
We forecast that this trend will continue to grow exponentially. Information technologies make it possible to connect, to collaborate and to communicate easily from virtually anywhere-from your tractor if you are a farmer, from the restaurant down the street, from the airport, the car, and certainly from home. Voice mail, cell phones, teleconferencing, digital communication, and email make it possible to conduct business from wherever you are; making it even more possible to be there now as Ram Dass so wisely encouraged us to do several decades ago.
The very essence of a web search is that you can click on text or pictures and be transported instantly, or pretty quickly anyway, to somewhere else.
In addition, you can obtain expert knowledge in moments. Receiving information we need as we need it has become more readily available through computer-based applications that use a representation of human expertise in a specialized field of knowledge. According to the textbook Organizational Behavior: Foundations, Realities, and Challenges 2003, by Debra L. Nelson and James Campbell Quick, expert systems provide advice to non-experts, provide assistance to deepen your expertise, and serve as a training and development tool in organizations. Expert systems are used in medical decision making, diagnosis, and medical informatics. Anheuser-Busch uses an expert system to assist managers in ensuring that personnel decisions comply with antidiscrimination laws. Expert systems are on the rise as technology more and more meets up with the reality of our every day. To test this, go to your search engine now and key in expert systems. Enjoy your find. What a great tool to possess and to provide to others as they deepen their just-in-time-knowledge.
Technology will increase your business opportunities, and we’re assuming that’s what you want. Technology will help you better meet the expectations for responsive-paced communication, information gathering, improved customer service, greater efficiency, and ultimately to improve your capacity and ability to get things done.
The good news is that if you are just getting started, or need to bring your technology to the next level, resources are literally all around you. Talk to people in your business network and within your educational systems. You will receive information about affordability and you will also find that people will want to share their skills with you. See Part Three for more information to guide you in your technological growth.
Diagnosing Communication Channels
We’ve spent some time on major communication technologies available today. Just remember that every seven minutes, three decades worth of new technology is born. Now let’s talk about how you choose to communicate with all the technology available. This section of the strategy emphasizes shifting from your own preferred style of communication when necessary to match your relationship partner when necessary.
The world has changed forever and as we deal with individuals one to one, we must consider negotiating and balancing between various paths of communication channels. Examples of various channels include from the still always effective one-on-one face contact, or telephone, to more recent advances in communication such as e-mail, electronic bulletin boards, chat rooms, and virtual meetings.
As you look at these communication channels, which mode to you most prefer? Does it change as you think about a specific relationship? Does it change based on the discussion you wish to have? Of course it does. Now, have you thought about asking your partner about his or her preferred mode? It is important to remember that each one of us has a preferred channel of communication. The willingness to shift as we need to while keeping the situation and the relationship in mind will improve the ability to “meet” in the real and the electronic world.