The Business-Technology Weave

Jul 12 2010   9:17AM GMT

Business Communication in the Electronic Age

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

Communication has suffered in the electronic age.How can this be so?After all, we’ve expanded our options for, and the immediacy of, access and communication.Through e-mail; instant messaging; voice-over-IP (VoIP); access to web content; near-instantaneous transmission of large documentation sets; transmission of graphical and motion content; online meetings; online demonstrations, wireless communication, etc.  We’re communicating more than ever – aren’t we? 


Perhaps – but maybe we’re just communicating more often – and transmitting more content – not necessarily communicating more information (that which truly informs… and benefits).  For Business, we may merely be increasing the raw amount of content – not necessarily enhancing the quality and necessary informing aspect of what we’re trying to communicate.  It is useful communication that counts in the business sense.  The irony is that as we’ve expanded the width and immediacy of access and communication, we have found that we can no longer control discretion.  To some degree too we’ve obliterated a natural, “built-in,” time for reflection and careful crafting of communication that existed with letter writing and hardcopy document preparation.  We’ve enabled the “firing-off” of hasty, poorly constructed e-mails, and other text-enabled messages, which may not accurately convey what we’re trying to express.  We open the door for misinterpretation.


In years past we had more face-to-face meetings – we could readily assess an expectation for discretion based on who was in the room.  We also had non-verbal cues, and the real-time of collaborative assent, and dissent.  Even when we communicated in remote methods, we often had a reasonable control to those whom we imparted information.  For example, we phoned discreet parties.  In cases of documents and letters, we understood that physical recipients could control physical copies.  There were no guarantees, of course, but there were many circumstances where we could make reasonable requests and assumptions.  These former methods had built-in time to care and reflect as we crafted those communications.


We now have little or no control on discretion when we communicate electronically.    If you send an e-mail to someone, you cannot know to whom he or she will forward that mail – it’s just so easy and convenient.  Even if they are the soul of discretion, you cannot know for certain that no one will take advantage of unauthorized access to that e-mail.  Instant messages can be intercepted too.  Whereas the interception of physical mail or documents often left evidence of such interception, the interception of electronic communication often leaves no real trail – or a trail that ties to temporary, abandoned, “one off” accounts and measures.


Another liability of electronic communication is the sheer volume of it.  Ever more sensitive communications are conducted remotely via text.  You cannot be certain how a recipient will interpret, or misinterpret, your communication, yet you may not have the luxury of waiting for a face-to-face in today’s high-speed world.  Recipients may become angry at something they perceive, but which isn’t actually there according to intention.  Perhaps in your haste you’ve sent an inelegant or poorly thought-out communication.  Perhaps you even deliberately sent a missive that you immediately regretted sending.  Misunderstandings can become, simply, a “text-enabled” miscommunication due to the lack of time for reflection.  For this reason, prudent people and organizations are very circumspect in their communications these days, and for good reason.  Taking things to extreme, however, can contribute to the “silo-ing” of departments, organizations, and activities.


The effective management and use of ready communications and associated tools is an absolute must within the realm of electronic communication.  Have solid policies in place, such as an Electronic Communications Policy, Corporate Communications Policy, etc.  The reality and perception must be that all communication is being made on a “business forward” basis; this lessens the opportunity for misunderstandings and misapplication of suspicion. 



July 12th:  The first televised tennis match was transmitted on this day in 1928.


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  • Sitwell333
    I completely agree with you. Lots org. can get anything done because of miscommunication issue. People don't call anymore nor write letters and there is personal communication anymore. Instead of inviting or talking to a person face to face; they (people) using FaceBook, Twitter and other social website to communicate. that's just crazy. anyway thank you for posting this article.
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