May 12, 2020 | 6 min read

How Asynchronous Communication Drives Inclusivity (and Productivity)

Pavel Kaplunou , Marketing Communications

Managing a remote development team or a satellite workforce means adhering to a rigorous always-on policy, right? Well, not entirely. Turns out, a turn-based communication practice can instead guarantee all voices are heard and work is performed efficiently. Here is how you can make use of asynchronous communication to boost your business communication effort.

With most of the global workforce trying to make the most of work from home, businesses have amplified efforts to ensure collaboration and communication are up to par. Business spending, from surveys by TrustRadius, shows a prioritization of communication software, to warrant that the remote work environment is connected through and through.

As the number of voice and video conferencing applications skyrockets, business leaders still need to consider their business communication strategy. How they handle communication with employees, clients and partners during a full transition online will, after all, dictate the success of their operations as and after they weather the storm.

What is asynchronous communication

The approach that is asynchronous communication is based on the guiding practice that not everyone works at the same time. In other words, an instant message transfer does not necessarily elicit an instant response.

This approach might be defined by anything ranging from working conditions, force majeure situations to personal reasons. In practice, it boils down to matters of flexible working hours, differing time zones, and quite simply availability.

The key media of asynchronous communication are emails, text messages, social media posts — any tools where the response can be delayed and where there is no interference (such as voice calls). An asynchronous method of communication might look as a turn-based exchange of ideas, where a comprehensive idea is fleshed out and receives a due response some time later.

A communication method that is not dragged down by time, but occurs gradually and consecutively is a common practice with software development companies. Wherever their R&D centers are based, chances are they will be working with international clients across multiple time zones. 

Asynchronous vs real-time communication

Contrasted to asynchronous, synchronous communication is classified as communication in real time. As we all are, sometimes quite painfully aware, real-time communication is often marked by a sense of urgency and priority. 

This question needs an answer now (are you online?), this task had to be done yesterday (why isn’t it?), where is the monthly account report (can you link it?). 

The synchronous method of communication addresses pressing matters, when they need to be addressed. Spoiler: usually instantly. As such its media are instant messenger software, voice call tools, or good old person-to-person meetings.

Unlike turn-based verbal exchange, real time exchanges are characterized by speaker dominance, interference and loss of information. However, despite these glaring drawbacks, it addresses issues of priority and helps advance to the next logical phase.

Synchronous communication is often a must for distributed teams, collaborating on the same tasks and problems at a distance. Oftentimes, it enacts the necessary checks and balances that keep processes going. Teams working in the same time zone can rarely imagine not reaching out to colleagues online to double check on priority issues, ask for advice, or enjoy a casual water cooler-style conversation to unwind.

Some companies will hinge their vitality entirely on their ability to be able to respond and communicate key ideas to seniors and executives. For startups especially, such aspects as continual stakeholder management can be mission-critical for the release of their product or service.

Striking the balance

When it comes to remote software engineering teams like Smart IT, using the business communication method that best fits the client and scenario is vital. Oftentimes, this means choosing between three options: synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of the two (hybrid communication). 

An overlap with the client’s time zone, even a slight one, can give ample opportunity to discuss progress and the development roadmap in real-time. Team leads are flexible to adopt the convenient communication tools that work for clients and will jump on frequent video and voice calls to deliver updates. Essentially, everyone is on the same page, at all times.

The synchronous method is a great fit for teams that work in conjunction with one another. In other words software development takes place between the client’s team and our engineering team in parallel. Critical messages get exchanged “here and now” and the course of work is adjusted on the go.

At the same time, the asynchronous approach allows Smart IT teams to initiate a perpetual software development life cycle. The way it works is that either the client’s or our own team will enter development for the day, whenever that day begins for them, and complete a set of tasks, leaving comments and notes at the end of their ‘shift’. The second team then picks up development, leaning on the messages left by the first team as reference.

The method is most frequently employed between client-provider teams that work in vastly differing time zones. Instead of conversational dominance, where one team leads development, it helps establish conversational ownership. With both teams dependent on the work of the prior team, members become deeply vested and root to complete development at the highest standards. The development therefore becomes inclusive.

A hybrid communication approach will generally work best for teams that share some overlap in terms of time. The synched hours can be used to address high priority issues and strategic decision making, while the rest of the hours are geared towards making progress on work that needs to be done.

Rule of thumb

Choosing your business communication method with remote employees, vendor partners, and stakeholders is a decision vital to being productive, need we say. It is also one that is best made at the onset of your software development project, or any other undertaking for that matter. While most IT service providers are happy to align with a different approach mid-way, doing so could result in lost time and concessions for an adjustment period. 

Given the workplace culture of texting and messaging, as well as the face-to-face preferences of executives and business leaders, it is hard to define what approach is universally best. Defining that may be a faulty move, as circumstances will often dictate the means and approaches that need to be adopted. 

If there is a takeaway from all of this it is that the best projects work in tandem. Whether that tandem is synchronous, asynchronous or a mix of the two is your shot to call.

12 May 2020

WRITTEN BY

Pavel Kaplunou, Marketing Communications

Pavel is Smart IT's Marketing Communication Manager. He oversees content creation and is in charge of the official Smart IT blog. Contact Pavel to learn about potential media and content collaborations. p.kaplunou@smart-it.io

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