Who owns communication in a business?

This debate started between Paul Statham at Condeco the market leaders in Workspace Efficiency and Simon Hunt Founder at Close Global.

It all started when we were talking about Communication and who owned FIXING IT, whose priority was it? 

Loads of question emerged:

  • Who owns communication?

  • Who is interested?

  • If you were interested, who would own improving it?

  • What can communication do for a company?

  • Does anyone measure communication?How do we know if we are good or bad at communication?Why is it important?

The answer to most of those was, I haven't thought about it and now I am, it's pretty fundamental. It is something we should get right and now you mention it, frequently overlook.

Suggestion 1 - Communication - It's a technology based tool, IT should own it! 

Suggestion 2 - Communication It's is the fuel / oil the company runs on, what does the IT director

know about the company fuel and lubricant? 

You can see the debate kicked off quickly from here and we were I'm ashamed to say, on some pretty virgin territory, as opinions swayed with each new idea, slant and perspective.

We thought we'd start with some context from those great folk at Gartner to address the "Why is it important?"

The idea being the at least we can prioritise, who might need to "think about it".   

Welcome to the debate, which was to say the least healthy, before we get into it, let's see why its relevant!

No less than Gartner issued its latest Unified Communications Report saying that its survey predictions were that 30% of Companies would have established a Competitive Communications Edge and advantage by 2020, wow!   

The above is our Communications Edge image, attempting to highlight visually, the way Gartner believes companies will separate:

Bottom right "the EXTINCT class" in future tense, will be those that simply plough on regardless, NOT changing their current default on communication, preferring physical meetings for face to face communication and dealing with any distance, when face to face meetings are not practical, with either traditional audio conferences or screen sharing tools. 

Neither audio conference or screen sharing tools enable Visual communication to be optimised with the maximum use of images and body language, which scientists have proven, increase the speed you comprehend messages and tune emotionally into the body language. A benefit to both the meeting host and guest attendees. The Research Suggest between 55-65% of a message you project is body language.

We call them "the extinct class" as coming last in a competitive market or industry has its penalties and today they are swift and severe, for those that act slower than their competitors or markets, for those that want to argue read Jack Welch.

For those that will will not take a single reference point as authoritative, let's look 500 of them over 25 years IE at the the S & P 500 and what that landscape is like.

  • 25 years ago the average age of a company in the S & P was 81 years, today its 16!

  • That's a few CEOs that have led their companies out of the S & P and some are now managing it, inside their time at the helm!   

In the Middle of the image is the "the Follower class" they embraced Visual Communication and yet failed to drive the initiative beyond the boardroom or "their IT boundary" and in so doing, consigned themselves to suffering at the hands of the leading companies in their respective markets.

What did they do wrong you may ask?

The key is they partially bought into the advantages of a Competitive Communication Edge, which by definition puts them at a disadvantage to the Leaders who will move faster, outmanoeuvre and beat them. 

Here's the analogy: This not unlike Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, for those not familiar, Drake's smaller, lighter, faster more manoeuvrable ships, defeated the Spanish, heavily. Pretty important, as the Armada was intent on gaining control of the sea, so the invading army could land and conquer Great Britain. Some high stakes indeed.  Message: The nimble, fast moving, more agile team won, lesson date 1588. 

So a few years on, Why were they "the followers" disadvantaged?

Simply they did not do what Leaders in their industry did, implement organisation wide Face to Face communication as their default Communication policy and their IT teams or leadership did not pursue that communication advantage beyond the limits of their IT reach, (they just dealt with Internal Communication (let's put in Skype for Business) and missed the communication opportunity with Partners, Suppliers, Customers and Contractors. 

So why did they miss the opportunity?

As we were struggling at the beginning of this blog with all those questions, you can see how easily Communication and gaining a Competitive Communication Edge, might fall between the cracks.The Leader Class of company decided that they wanted a Competitive Communication Edge and I'm going to use three companies I've first hand knowledge off to draw lessons from and illustrate the argument.

The scene ISE 2017 Amsterdam on the famous Tech Data, Tikki Stand, courtesy of John Sidwick and Jane Hammersley, three speakers one from Google named Mark Grady.

His presentation was about how Google viewed visual communication and the learns were:

Google's default for meetings is they must use visual communication, every meeting room is equipped with Google's visual collaboration tools (except the meeting rooms where engineers need quiet time to think).

Why? So that meetings are based on Visual Communication. When asked why visual communication, the answer was people understand images and body language much faster and better than they do the written word or hearing only, so we use the best form of communication, Visual, to make meetings more productive.

Every meeting room?

Yes except the ones where the engineers need quiet! Wow and why is that important? We see communication as giving us a competitive edge. In the authors humble opinion Google are not doing badly.

Next on Simon Dudley, Logitech, who presented on a new Microsoft Surface Hub how Logitech were embracing the changes in collaboration and one compelling argument he put forward was that in the past Video Conferencing had failed dismally to bring Visual Communication to the masses, here were his facts:

Meeting Rooms in the world 50,000,000 those with Video Conferencing 5%, he pointed out any tool with 5% penetration of a market, was pretty poor showing.

His hopes were that today with a number of things changing, we were about to embrace a tidal wave of collaboration because:

The Devices we now used were "familiar" rather than a dusty, expensive, unfamiliar piece of video conferencing kit.Familiarity, he said, would drive adoption and take up and he pointed to the Surface Hub and Skype Room System saying here are examples, they work on Windows, with Office 365, they are touch orientated like smart devices, and they've a suite of familiar software on them that help us collaborate, from Skype for Business to Powerpoint. 

Cost, whilst Microsoft Surface Hub's run to 000's of pounds the Skype Rooms systems and devices that connect you to screens were getting cheaper, faster and were familiar (we used them every day).

The third presenter was yours truly, who, humbled by the company, was more than relieved when he discovered a Surface Hub was just a big wall mounted Ipad with Microsoft Office tools on it. (familiarity again! we begun to think Mr Dudley was more than right)

I proffered that we were living in a different business world, where a performance business culture was desired by Investors (75%) and Business Leaders (87%) however 67% of their managers couldn't achieve or maintain that Performance based culture.

I presented what I thought were the causes or shifts that challenged us were:

The office, historically we all went there to use our technology. No where we worked, had been replaced by technology, now technology is your workplace.

The Technology had changed, being mobile, camera and WiFi enabled and faster, all of which changed how we could work to deliver results.

That distance between colleagues, peer groups and advisors had required us to use new tools, email, screen sharing, text, messaging and chat that were "word based" rather than Face to Face hearing, seeing and sensing, which we used to use, in the office or Meeting Room, in the past.    

And that going back to meeting Face to Face was the way forward, with new tools that connected people removing the distance.

Tools that:-

Connected every device be it visual and audio capable, extending to every workplace or person.

Connect every platform removing the silo's of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Cisco who struggled or simply didn't facilitate face to face meetings, outside their silo.

All three presenters pointed to change.

And the changes are significant, "the Leaders" are changing, shifting to communicating visually to compete in a world that has changed dramatically.

They use familiar devices, (we think will achieve better than 5% penetration) and those devices are now equipped with a camera, wifi and audio, with powerful processors that get faster and cheaper every year.

Helping us are "winds of change" that herald in, both finance and IT enablers, to help us on our journey. See the slide below, which tries to sum up, what's helping those changes to happen faster than they used to.

So back to the discussion, who should own Communication? 

We argue communication is the oil/fuel a company runs on and what fuel a company runs on can dictate how fast it runs and what we are actually talking about therefore, is who owns winning?

To help the debate here's a picture of Logitech's CIO, Massimo Rapparini who presented the changes at Logitech in moving from Voice VOIP and Local Carrier audio calls to Video calls / Visual communication (new communication fuel).    

A 100% increase in Video usage in 2 years, whilst the base of users grew 20%. There were tonnes of questions from the audience:

What were the benefits, which we unsurprising, as they echoed Wainhouse study from 2013, this looked at  4,000 regular users of Visual Communication and the benefits they derived from using regular Video Communication:-

  • Better Productivity 

  • Faster Input into decisions,

  • Better Business Decisions,

Anyone after a performance business culture, wouldn't argue that those three were high on a list of desirables!

However ask yourself, who owns those three things in a company?

Is it the CIO?Or the CEO?Or COO?

Then someone asked Massimo "Who made the decision to move to visual communication?" The answer - the CEO - told me to "make it happen, because ......."

So now we circle back to the debate and I'll bring in this anonymous CEO, who I was having the debate with and I'll summarise the debate/exchange:

Q: Who should own visual communication?

A: CTO, it's a technology based solution

Q: Is the technology just not the way you implement it?

A: Well yes, but where are you coming from?

Q: Why do you use Visual Communication?

A: I like to see and enter the discussion and monitor who's paying attention.

Q: So images and body language are key?

A: Yes

Q: Why?

A: I can keep a finger on the pulse of the organisation and what's going on, easily.

Q: I see you have more and more Video Conferencing kit, who made the decision to buy it?

A: Myself and the CTO decided what to buy

Q: Who insisted on face to face communication as the only way you'll engage?

A: Me (CEO)   

Q: Why?

A: We can get more done, faster.

So yes, the guy that implements it may well be technical and report into or be the CIO/CTO, however in both instances the CEO said "make visual communication happen"

So back to the Leaders, Leaders are companies that have CEOs, who understand the power of having a Competitive Communication Edge.

They understand Visual Communication and WHY it gives them a Competitive Communication Edge, that words have to be combined with images and body language, for people to understand things faster and that faster comprehension is important, because they want the company to run faster, perform better and beat the competition. 

They may well turn to the CTO / CIO and say "I want Visual Communication, make it happen" but the often lofted reasons for it, productivity, travel reduction etc are symptoms, not the cause.

What causes a company to move faster and perform better, is better communication and its the CEO's job to drive that, as they are accountable for that performance.

So the big takeaway, was the whole discussion we had, was boiling the debate down to "what's the cause of good performance?".

Gartner thinks its having a Competitive Communication edge

At Communication Edge - We agree

The reason the debate was healthy?

Well, that was because we were tied up in discussing the symptoms, not the cause.

Final Analogy:

For those that like fast things, like motorbikes (me), if I want to buy a fast bike I buy a Ducati.

You want to go fast on it, then put decent oil and fuel in it (communication).

However, if we want to win races on it, get a fast competitive rider, who has to win (CEO). 


Fast CEO's understand visual communication?!

If your a CEO who wants that Competitive Communication Edge, look at Virtual Meeting Rooms and what they can do for your organisation.

Literally connecting devices and platforms for face to face meetings.


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