It’s time to replace email. For the past 20 years, it’s been the premier business communication tool. But, carbon copying and promotional offers have led to overstuffed inboxes. So let’s look at two newer solutions.
Yammer is the hidden gem of Microsoft’s business offerings. It lets any-sized business set up private social networks for communicating. Like Facebook, its main screen is a collection of comments, web links and photos. But, unlike Facebook, it has three features that make it a suitable office tool.
- It’s only visible to those who are invited, and you must have a company email to join.
- Postings can be tagged and sorted, and then searched and grouped using the # and @ symbols. So you can create company specific tags, such as #Admin, #Compliance, @ClientName, @InsuranceCompany. This helps co-workers to search, reply and solve problems quickly, regardless of how recently they were posted to the main screen.
- Subgroups can be created with separate members who are outside the company. So, issues such as compliance or marketing campaigns can have their own desktops, files, document sharing and members.
Yammer is available free, or paid as part of Office 365 (starting at $3 per user, per month). It’s available online and as an app for Apple, Android, Microsoft and BlackBerry phones. Chat is built into the software.
Trillian is a messaging aggregation app. You can log into your AOL, MSN, Google or Yahoo accounts all at once and communicate among them.
In my office, we use Trillian chat software as a quick alternative to email, voicemail or a knock on the door. You can quickly ask a question, get an answer and return to work with minimal interruption.
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Conversations are organized by person, not by date, as a single stream (much like texting or chat). You also avoid the signature lines and carbon-copying within email. A single login lets you communicate from any computer or mobile device, so questions can be asked via phone and answered via desktop. You can attach files as needed, and several people can talk at once from any device.
The whole conversation is encrypted and secure. Here’s a look at one of my actual Trillian logs.
› Kevin Cork: can you check on some free [fund company] units for R** for me?
› absolutebarb: Sure, right away
› absolutebarb: re: T**** R**, approx free amounts as of August 9/14: [redacted]
› Kevin Cork: Thanks Barb. Is my little iPod sitting on the counter or couch?
› absolutebarb: I can’t see it anywhere
› Kevin Cork: Ok, thanks
› Kevin Cork: One more thing. Can you see anything on S’s desk for D**’s RESP?
› absolutebarb: She has paperwork for a $9,000 redemption.
› Kevin Cork: Yes, we need to redo the form for their son
› absolutebarb: She may have been waiting for a $9,000 proof of enrollment. There is proof of a $1,400 payment
› Kevin Cork: Can you dig up a blank RESP EAP form and send it to D**?
These apps, like Workflowy and Evernote, are the next generation of flexible and mobile-friendly options that will eventually replace email. They’re simple to use, and secure.
by Kevin Cork, CFP, president of TheAbsoluteGroup.com and a best-selling author.