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This post is fourth in an enterprise collaboration series, in which we explore how knowledge workers, IT departments and business leaders can boost productivity, increase efficiency and transform their organizations with the power of collective wisdom.

When use of the telegraph became widespread in the first half of the 19th century, it profoundly altered communication. Beyond the obvious—speed and distance—it also changed people’s response time expectations, diminished an individual’s control over perception, and introduced new levels of informality and spontaneity to communication. Perhaps most notably, it was a step in the direction of expanding synchronous communication, which, up until that point, had been limited to face-to-face interaction.

Today, more than two centuries later, new and evolving technology is triggering similar changes in how people communicate and collaborate. We can now easily work with colleagues across continents or in nearby cubicles using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools—messaging and conferencing apps, live polling, whiteboard tools, network drives, cloud storage, co-authoring capabilities, email and more. Today’s location-independent devices make collaboration even easier.

Today, more than two centuries after the introduction of the telegraph, new and evolving technology is triggering similar changes in how people communicate and collaborate.

This week’s post is focused on synchronous communication, which is instantaneous and can occur in person or remotely via instant messaging, video/web conferencing or telephone. Next week’s blog will examine asynchronous tools, such as email, blogs, discussion boards and mobile texts, with which communication is not immediately received or responded to.

Synchronous communication technology brings a multitude of benefits to business. It can eliminate geographical barriers, enabling people in different locations to collaborate in real time. Responses and feedback are immediate, and, with web and video conferencing, participants can use body language and tone of voice.

It can lessen the enormous amount of time many workers spend waiting—for document revisions, email responses and message board posts. It also helps to minimize time wasted due to miscommunication and enables people to steer conversations in the right direction before they stray too far.

Synchronous communication technology also cuts travel expenses for training, meetings and other purposes. Corporate city hopper planes are being replaced by Skype meetings.

One of the more notable benefits of synchronous communication technology in the enterprise is the effect it has had on corporate training. By cutting travel costs and eliminating scheduling conflicts, it makes training possible for remote and field employees, which, for some organizations, are their highest-performing sales staff.

And the benefits are only going to increase. When Microsoft released the technical preview of Skype for Business (formerly Lync) in March, it promised to deliver a tool that would combine the best of both applications. The company appears to have kept its promise. The Skype for Business client has a user-friendly interface, the ability to search for and connect with anyone in the Skype network (inside or outside the user’s organization), plus improved Lync features such as presence, instant messaging, voice/video calls and meetings. And, because it’s a Microsoft product, it’s fully integrated into Office.

On a grand scale, synchronous communication technology makes it easier for people to work together. It puts them in the same virtual room at the same time, and enables them to produce better, quicker end results. If collaboration is an organization’s most valuable intangible asset, synchronous communication technology is the catalyst for its growth.

ALSO IN THE SERIES: Come together, right now… over lunch?: What it really means to collaborate and why every company should care | Using what you’ve got: Knowledge-Centered Support systems capitalize on IT’s greatest asset | A swarming trend: Why IT’s shift from tiered support to a collaborative, customer-focused model is good for the end-user, and for IT

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