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Offsetting budget reductions with technology

May 10, 2009

Currently, organizations are reluctant to spend money on business expenses when less-costly options are available. Travel budgets have been slashed and education and development budgets are dwindling due to financial constraints and cutbacks. However, these cuts do not have to sound the death knell for organizational development efforts. Rather, budget reductions challenge practitioners to find new avenues (even free avenues!) that will help move beyond perceived setbacks, leveraging technology to solve their problems. Technology solutions always involve a mix of trial and error experiences and today’s social networking sites offer sensible solutions to facilitate progress, regardless of small budgets and large distances.

Teleconferencing and videoconferencing have allowed a wide range of communication options for industry and education, as well as for personal use as Balint (2007) points out. Skype, the subject of Balint’s (2007) article has allowed people without corporate resources to use videoconferencing technology from their homes, using their own webcams and PCs. Personally I have used Skype to synchronously lecture in my research class at Bowling Green when the weather was inclement and I was unable to be there in person. In our PhD program we have utilized tools such as Centra and SecondLife to have synchronous meetings and make presentations. D’Eredita & Chau (2005) point out that information technology such as email, videoconferencing and teleconferencing can be effective in teambuilding exercises and distributed work environments.

Despite the benefits of information technology utilized for such purposes there are drawbacks such as the possibility for miscommunication or misunderstanding. Additionally, D’Eredita & Chau (2005) point out that it may take longer in distributed team environments using synchronous and asynchronous information technology to find a common understanding and settle in to a comfort level that cultivates interpersonal relationship conducive to problem-solving at higher levels. However, D’Eredita & Chau (2005) point out that such communication gives way to a quicker and more precise line of decision making and consensus building than found in traditional meeting/work environments.

There are inter-cultural and environmental communication issues inherent with the use of information technology that become important as Bekkering & Shim (2006) point out. The lack of eye contact may be problematic in trust-building as such behavior is generally viewed as deceptive or insincere according to Bekkering & Shim (2006), both of which are important to establishing sound business relationships. Accordingly to the media richness theory (MRT) “communication channels differ in the amount and variety of information they carry” (p. 104) as well as the fact that facial expressions, voice inflections and gestures are sometimes lost in transmission. Additionally, the speed with which the transmission is sent and received can have an effect on the timeliness of the communication, especially if the equipment is not properly calibrated.

An open mind is necessary to leverage today’s Web 2.0 in an organizational setting and the proper mix of entrepreneurial spirit is required. There may be no better time than the present to convince organizational leadership to take a chance on ubiquitous social networking (individual and enterprise) tools to facilitate progress. After all, what do they have to lose?

References

Balint, K. (2007). Shall We Skype? Network Journal, 15(1), 42. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from Ethnic NewsWatch (ENW) database. (Document ID: 1371145351).

Bekkering, E., & Shim, J. (2006). Trust in videoconferencing. Association for Computing Machinery. Communications of the ACM, 49(7), 103-107. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1074400061).

D’Eredita, M., and Chau, C. (2005). Coaching from afar: How ubiquitous information technology was used to develop a successful semi-virtual team. The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management 3(2), 65-74.

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