In the previous post, I shared a few notes on internal communication in tech companies. In this post, I’ll take a step back to discuss what types of communication exist in a tech company, highlighting cross-department communication. For each type of communication, I will discuss the tools that can serve you best… and worst.
Here are the kinds of communication that I noticed along the years at Leverate:
Boards = lists that departments maintain so that everyone in the company can check them out. Boards will usually reflect recent work, so their contents will change with time. Examples:
- Next releases board– maintained by the product team
- Latest sales board– maintained by the sales team
- This month’s lead numbers board– maintained by the marketing department
- This month’s birthdays board– maintained by the HR team
- This year’s holidays in our offices worldwide– maintained by the HR team
Boards can come in different flavors:
- Crucial for day-to-day work OR a nice-to-have transparency tool
- Designed for internal communication in the department OR designed for communicating to other departments
If you ever worked in a sales team, you’ve most likely seen a board that sales leaders love: the monthly leader board. Nothing invites more motivation and focus than these cold hard numbers on the wall.
When shared cross-department, boards are perhaps the most simple and to-the-point transparency tool that I’ve seen. People love them (when they’re up-to-date, of course), and they create a feeling of accountability among critical departments. I highly encourage founders to introduce a board for product, sales and marketing to reflect releases, sales data and marketing data respectively.
What do we need in a board tool?
- Public– anyone can easily check out boards
- Collaborative– anyone can create boards, then quickly edit / comment / like items
- Good lookin’– it’s nice to add some colors or communicate planning vs. execution with a ‘dashboardy’ feeling
- Topics & subscriptions– would be nice if people can subscribe for specific boards (e.g. next releases) and get notified on updates
- Interactive– it would be nice to click an item (e.g. a specific planned release) to get more information (the release notes)
Recommended tools for boards:
- The board feature in daPulse
- A public Google Spreadsheet
- Build your own– home-made boards are always an option: in some offices I’ve seen TV screens projecting retention, sales and even revenues data to all employees
- The wrong tool: emails
Shouts = casual cross-department announcements. Usually to the entire company. Usually happy. You don’t know exactly when they will come. They’ll stick around for a couple of days and then they will get washed away. Examples for shouts in a tech company are:
- An introduction of a new key employee that everybody needs to know, including a picture of them with their dog
- An announcement from the CEO about last week’s acquisition
- Pictures from the crazy team building night that the marketing department had last week, including that video of the VP Marketing dancing on a bar table that will haunt her forever
- An announcement from the VP sales on the epic performance of the sales team during Jan & Feb, including a chart
What do we need in a shout tool?
- Notifies everyone, but minimizes spam– shouts are cool, and sometimes you want to announce something to all, but people don’t like getting 12 random emails per week. Better find a tool that minimizes announcements to all, aggregates notifications and lets people choose their topic(s) of interest
- Social– anyone should be able shout on any topic, because everyone has something interesting to celebrate every now and then. A good tool will let other people quickly like / comment on the shouts. It’s also nice to see who in the company read the shout
- Allows attachments– it’s nice and engaging when shouts come with an inline chart, picture or video
Recommended tools for shouts:
- Posts in Facebook at Work, daPulse or Yammer
- Emails (not ideal)
- The wrong tools: your company wiki, Trello
#3 Knowledge bases
Knowledge base = an evolving collection of articles and media items. Think about a company-wide wiki. Knowledge bases are naturally different from boards and shouts because they contain information that you want to evolve and stay long term.
Examples for knowledge bases in a tech company are: