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10 Technology-Driven Ways to Increase Your Communication Staff's Efficiency

The aversion that most people have to technology creates a big advantage for those who are willing to try new things, even if they flounder or even fail the first time.

Be smart: Get ahead of the curve and adopt the kinds of technologies that can help your productivity (read: bottom line) skyrocket.

Here are just a few:

  1. Share information electronically: Stop "meeting madness" - it is expensive and draining; most people hate meetings anyway. Save the talk for brainstorming, teambuilding, or other activities that require face-to-face interaction.
  2. Convert from email to alerting: People are drowning in email. Put your messages on the Web (internal or external) and let your readers find them by following an automatically generated alert. Use metrics of clicks to measure interest and engagement – which email doesn’t offer by default. Plus the content will stay there, hopefully well-categorized, for easy reference later on.
  3. Edit documents by wiki: Shared document editing by wiki rather than email (I send you the attachment, you send me the attachment, we can’t remember whose attachment is latest) or, heaven help us, trying to read someone’s handwriting. Unless you really need document tracking, it’s a simple solution to what can be a very time-consuming process.
  4. Transition from private to shared workspaces: If your best employee were to leave the organization tomorrow, would you be able to figure out what the heck they had on their computers or why it was important? Change the cultural expectation so that work is done on a project basis rather than a personal basis. By working this way, documents will be labeled consistently, stored in an accessible manner, and a version history will be kept to protect against data loss. Think about how long it can take you to write a single critical email and you will recognize the importance of this step, even if it is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and you encounter resistance from the team.
  5. Use project management software rather than homemade tracking solutions: Are you still thinking that you can keep it all “in your head”? Afraid that by committing things to a system you will lose control? That you can’t learn a new solution because Microsoft Project is so complicated? Or perhaps you still send those back-and-forth emails? For everyone’s sake, especially yours, do yourself a favor and make the move now to something more professional. I pilot-tested Zoho and liked it a lot, but it’s a bit marketplace out there and you should be able to find something that works. (It’s also good to hire a Project Management Professional if you can, someone trained in the technical, systemic and organizational aspects of project management.)
  6. Invest in a document management system: After the project is complete and the team members are off the shared workspace, who retires the documents and makes sure they’re searchable by the next person? If you don’t invest in a cataloguing solution for the knowledge you’ve already produced, chances are you’ll have another team try to produce it again in the not-too-distant future.
  7. Convert to digital signatures from ink: I know, I know, ink is so pretty and it makes such nice swirly curls when you use it. It feels good to sign your name to approve a finished product. But you know what? Digital signatures are just as nice, in a different way: They save you from having to chase people down for matters that can just as easily benefit from a digital signing. Plus, let’s face it – most of what we do doesn’t exactly rank up there with the Constitution of the United States in importance. If a lease can be signed electronically, so can printer proofs.
  8. Learn the magical wonders of workflow management: Isn’t it fun to take a single piece of paper from floor to floor, scanner to fax machine, carrying it from person to person till it has all the signatures it needs to go out? Or how about tasks that have to flow from Person A to B to C and then back to A – isn’t it awesome when you have to chase each of those people down, or when you are one of them and aren’t sure if it’s your turn to edit the thing or if you have to wait for the subject matter expert first? This is the great contribution that workflow management makes to our lives. It’s the end of papers flying all over the place. The end of “who’s on first.” Finally we can relax until it’s our turn to pick up the baton.
  9. Get social – it’s free: There are so many social media solutions that already benefit from government participation. Use them to multiply the force of your outreach efforts: For example, take your photos and put them on your website, then Flickr, government photo collections, or anywhere it can be used by the public. Same with presentations to Slideshare. Documents to Scribd. Whatever tool makes sense, is approved, and you can use – use it.
  10. Become template-driven: The single best investment you can make in your brand is to develop a toolkit, posted in an accessible way for employees, that enables them to self-produce presentations, brochures, posters and fliers. Save your design and content communicators from getting into opinionated discussions over new names, new icons, new fonts, and so on, when using the brand usually benefits the organization more. Just make sure the brand is diverse enough to address most communication needs, and train and empower staff to use it. (This will engage them with it more, as well.) Invest the department’s resources in more complex jobs that call for a branding professionals’ judgment.

Don’t wait for inefficiency to sink your operation. Take action today – and ask your employees to come up with even better solutions for the next go-round.

Good luck!

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