Personalization and unification: The role of communication in digital transformation

Everyone knows Moore’s law – it’s been the “Golden Rule” of the technology sector for over fifty years.

Less known is Conway’s law, which states that “organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs that are copies of the communication structures of these organization.”

“We’ve built siloed data structures because that’s how corporate communication has always existed,” explains Jim Love, CIO, ITWC. According to Love, Conway’s law is evident throughout the corporate landscape – likely to our detriment.

But given that corporate communication is based mostly on 150-year old structures that were designed to rule a battlefield, does it still make sense to rely on them, given the current push towards digital transformation for driving business benefits?

The answer from the senior Canadian IT leaders gathered at the most recent Canadian CIO Roundtable was an emphatic “no.”

Less clear are the specifics of exactly what should change in terms of communication and technology.

Unifying communication

“As humans, we have been absolutely excellent at creating dialogue systems that are usable by a few people only,” explained one executive from a transit and logistics company. “We keep creating languages all the time that are meant to define us as a group. But this presents a problem. Misinterpretation and miscommunication are constant struggles. Even the few of us in this room here can stumble over the way we communicate.”

For this reason, the way forward is all through transforming the way we ingest customer, vendor and internal communications. According to the logistics executive, organizations need to begin developing systems that ingest and translate the syntax of every form of communication – SMS, chatbots, email, voice – into a unified language and system that can be used to drive business outcomes.

To accomplish this, the executive proposed that organizations examine the tools, data and resources at their disposal to determine what system they can create, rather than plan a system and try and force it to happen.

“Most organizations have more than they realize in their toolkit,” he explained. “It bears looking through everything at your disposal and then determining what is possible, rather than building a system that just resembles the last.”

Ken Zrobok, Senior Sales Engineer, LANtelligence said one of those approaches should include taking a realistic approach to creating a unified communication strategy.

“One of the things we chuckle about internally is the ‘IT Unicorn’ – the single pane of glass,” said Zrobok. “Everyone wants one, but it’s not really possible – unless you have very deep pockets. Getting your 8 – 12 apps down to three screens is far more practical.”

Personalization and becoming more human through technology

One of – if not the – most important goals of building a unified communications system is to be able to create more personalized messaging. The topic of personalization was a common thread throughout the evening. As one participant remarked, “We send out thousands of communications every week. Most fail and are deleted because people have begun to get used to our repetitious pattern of communicating. This is not just an external problem. It’s internal too.”

People want to feel heard, remembered, cared about, and important. Regardless of the medium organizations choose to communicate through, there are certain fundamental principles to human interaction that they must adhere to if we want to improve business communication in a manner that will drive business outcomes.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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