Introducing online networking into a workplace has definitely been one of the biggest trends in businesses this year. More and more companies are implementing chatting solutions (Skype, Confluence and so on) to enable their staff to communicate with ease and reduce the load on the email server.
Business social media and in-house chats have allowed business departments share information faster, enabled multi-office staff to liaise efficiently and from a social perspective, there are studies that show social media within the workplace has improved staff morale.
Just like any other new business process there needs to be a change management plan before implementing. In this answer, we will bypass the change management strategy and go straight into the technology side of workplace chat solutions.
The first step is identifying which application suits your business best, Skype is certainly the most popular at the moment and we can classify it as a business-grade application. Skype is not only free but it is also easy to install, manage and support.
The general issue with Skype is that it can be accessed from outside the workplace and can be used for non-work related chat activities (staff chatting to friends etc.). This means that there is a risk of staff spending time on social activities unrelated to work, which in turn makes work a little less efficient. Once a decision has been made on the workplace chat application the next step is selling it to the staff. Before installing the software the staff need to be trained on using the application, the benefits and usage policies. Once the training and policies have been put in place, its implementation time.
First step (and this is specifically for Skype) is to create a directory of all the staff, their usernames and roles. Publish or share this directory so that staff members can add each other and begin communicating almost immediately.
Step two is to liaise with the IT department to begin the rollout, this includes installation of Skype on all work devices, giving permissions for Skype to access the firewalls and finally, the creation of online videos showing how to log in, log out, add staff, accept requests and update Skype.
From a technology aspect implementing Skype in the workplace is quite straightforward for any IT team. However, the complications come from the level above that involves planning the change management procedure, policies and rules around work-related social media.
We are also seeing more allied health organisations using Skype for video consultations with patients and other stakeholders. This has certainly paved the way for businesses to be more productive and competitive.