Internal comms

Remember those heady days in the late nineties /early noughties when people told you “email is dead” — yeah, right! It was going to be replaced by X — I can’t even remember what X was… probably a bunch of stuff. A bit like the picture from XKCD below.

From: https://xkcd.com/1810/

What happened was… we got email and X (and ultimately all the other Xs that we hadn’t even thought of yet) to play with and the whole comms picture became more messy and confusing than it was before, not less.

We’re trying to do more of the whole ‘eat your own dogfood’ thing at Eduserv right now — which in our case means using the tools we suggest to our customers ourselves.

Office 365 is one example.

I dunno who put together the various ‘collaboration’ tools in Office 365 but it feels a bit like there was a garage sale somewhere and Microsoft bought a shoe box full of them without thinking too much about how they fitted together coherently. Yammer, Lync, Skype for Business, Teams, SharePoint.

In particular, I’m struggling to get the fundamental differences between Yammer and Teams and I don’t (yet) have a good mental map of when to use one vs the other.

In our case, but I pretty sure this will be the case in most places, the situation is compounded by the fact that we have pre-existing (and ongoing) use of other collaboration tools — email (obviously!), an internal blog based on Wordpress, Slack, text messaging and so on.

The result is that if you want to share information with a particular group of people within the business you have to consider where that group of people are most likely to be consuming stuff — and this is likely to vary by the type of people you want to reach, the type of information you are sharing (notably in terms of how formal it is), how urgent it is and sometimes by where the other parties are physically at that particular moment. Often, one ends up sharing stuff in multiple places just to be sure. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that our organisational structure changes regularly enough that email groups are nearly always out of date or wrongly named :-).

Recently, a bunch of us that tend to use Slack for informal discussion internally decided to use Teams for a week. Hey ho. No-one said anything for that week. It was weird. People might say that the tooling doesn’t matter but it so does. If there is a tumbleweed emoji (there must be, right?) that’s all that was blowing thru the Team conversations that week! (Note to self: write a tumbleweed bot for Teams).

Gradually, after the week was up, people moved back to Slack and picked up where they left off.

Don’t get me wrong… Office 365 has the potential to massively improve our current internal comms. It already has actually. And I’m guessing that our current picture will improve, not just in terms of the way the tooling will evolve but mainly in terms of our understanding of how best to use it.

In the meantime, it feels like a bit of a mess.