Patrick Sullivan, enterprise architect for the Chubb Group, says his group is looking at wikis to minimize meetings and cut down on e-mail. Chubb’s internal dev team, for example, is experimenting with Wiki Media — the same tool used to create the Wikipedia — to share ideas and collaborate on documentation as it codes. “The wiki technology lets our developers learn fun new skills while parlaying that into system documentation and new kinds of discussion groups,” he says.
And when his group does hold meetings, Sullivan encourages employees to use a teleconferencing connection — even when they’re sitting in an office down the hall.
“We might have a status meeting with 15 items on the agenda and you’re 14th on the list,” Sullivan says. “There’s no need to sit through the whole meeting until we get to your item. You can use that time to do research or manage multiple tasks.”
If you don’t have a dedicated teleconferencing setup, a hosted Web conferencing solution such as Citrix GoToMeeting, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, or WebEx can save you time and expense. For example, for around $40 a month you can hold meetings with as many as 10 remote participants using WebEx.
3. Use IM (with caution)
Instant messaging can avoid the delays associated with e-mail and the downtime of face-to-face or phone interactions — one reason why enterprise IM apps such as IBM Lotus Instant Messaging, Jabber, and Microsoft’s Live Communications Server are really catching on.
A mid-2006 survey of 112 enterprises by the Radicati Group found that 71 percent use a sanctioned instant messaging application, and that employees spend an average of 16 percent of their day using IM. Radicati predicts enterprise IM traffic will grow from 2.1 billion messages per day in 2006 to 10.7 billion messages by 2010.
“IM is seeing strong uptake in the business world largely due to its immediacy of use,” says Matt Anderson, principal analyst for Radicati. “In addition, IM’s presence functionality makes it easy for co-workers to ‘find’ each other online, thus providing a much needed tool for group collaboration.”
If you implement IM in the workplace, you need to take several precautions, says Chaco’s Brenner. For one thing, IM falls under the same compliance rules as e-mail and other corporate communications, so care must be taken to preserve records and avoid revealing privileged information to outsiders. “If you’re using IM without an IM SOX consultant, you’re headed for trouble,” Brenner says.
Enterprise-class IM systems come with that audit trail. Another reason to use them: The phishing and social engineering attacks that plague public IM systems are highly unlikely to touch an enterprise user in a closed loop system.
Used unwisely or too often, though, IM can sap your productivity. You’ll need to establish guidelines about how and when IM can be used, and encourage employees to make themselves unavailable when they need to bear down and meet deadlines.
4. Free up your help desk
Help desk techs spend a lot of time fixing the same obvious problems. The more no-brainer stuff you take off their plates, the more time they can spend on real dilemmas.