What is a Corporate Communications Framework?
A corporate communications framework is a structured way to look at the communications tools your organization is currently using. What tools are you using? Are they the right tools? If not, what tools are needed?
A Corporate Communication Framework (CCF) should not to be confused with your organization’s Corporate Communications Strategy, which is about what content to communicate and how that content is communicated. The difference between the two is important because they have very different meanings and are managed by different groups in the organization. But, the better the CCF in place, the more options are available for what content is created and how it can be communicated – the Corporate Communications Strategy.
Let’s step back and focus on the three questions above.
What communications tools are you using today?
We all use different communications tools – phones, email, faxes, texting and many more. But most organizations have not mapped out the communications tools they are using in a structured way. They do not have a picture of their current state.
But every organization has a current state, which I call their informal Corporate Communications Framework. By turning the informal CCF into a picture or diagram, you get a snapshot of your current state. Let’s look at how to do that.
In a previous blog I explained a very useful relative framework for different types of communication enabled by different types of communications. When we mapped different communication tools on the relative framework we came up with two distinct classes of communications tools:
- Real Time communications tools, and
- Iterative communications tools
See the figure to the right.
The Real Time and Iterative sets of communications tools become the two major categories for the Corporate Communications Framework.
Within each of these two categories there are two subsets of communication tools:
- Tools that are primarily used by individuals (personal tools) to give or receive a communication and;
- Tools that are primarily used to enable group communication and collaboration
Within the Interactive category the subsets break down into Peer-to-Peer Communication and Group Conferencing. Within the Iterative category the subsets break down into Messaging and Social & Work Spaces.
To make this more real, I added in the most significant and obvious tools within each subset. See figure below.
Notice that I extended the red “Interactive” colour over into the “Iterative” tool set. Why? Because if you are iterating fast enough it is almost like real-time, e.g. texting back and forth with someone.
The final pieces are the parts that weave all these tools together – the Directory Architecture and the Integration Layers between the tools. Adding these in gives us the final picture of the overall CCF. The Directory Architecture is the address book, or books, that the tools use to keep track of all the people in your organization that need to communicate together. A single address book is best, but with all the tools that exist a multiple address book environment is more common.
To make the multiple address book environment work requires IT integration work. Integration is also required to sometimes allow the four different subsets of communication tools talk to each other. Finally, integration is also required to enable the communications tools within applications.
With the framework above you can now get to your current state by simply filling in the tools your organization is using today with each of the subsets (gray boxes above). For example if your organization has an Avaya PBX and desktop phones then you would fill in “Avaya” for “Voice” in the Peer-to-Peer Communication category and as well in the Messaging category for “Voicemail”. If your organization is using Exchange for email, then fill in “Exchange” in the Messaging category for “email”.
There are some technologies that span these categories, such as Unified Communications tools (Jabber, Lync etc) where voicemail may be an integral part of the implementation, or Exchange is used for voicemail as well as email, in this case you would put these products multiple times in each category.
Are the communications tools your organization is using today, the right tools?
Once your organization has a good understanding of what you are using – the current state- then a determination can be made if the current state is the ideal state or if a change is needed, i.e. remediation is required. If you are like most organizations you will find one or more of the following problems:
The set of communication tools is not complete
There are duplicate tools in some areas
There are multiple directories
Not all the tools work with each other, e.g. the Peer-to-Peer tools don’t work with the Group Conferencing tools
There is a mix of legacy and modern tools performing the same role but used by different groups
The tools do not provide a rich communication and collaboration experience
There is no strategy around the selection and deployment of the right communications tools
If the communications tools you are using today are not the right tools, how do you determine what the right tools are?
The right tools are a set of tools that work well together. There are many answers to getting to a set of tools that work well together, but “working well together” is the key. To better understand this, read this blog on Turning the Patchwork of Communications Tools into a Tapestry.
Why bother with any of this at all?