As part of our #fduCONNECT theme for 2019, our guest blog by David Burton explores  the differences between virtual and actual media in business, and how connection in real life still delivers more than virtual connection in most instances.

Virtual or Actual Media in Business: What is the Real Difference? Part 1

Just like connecting with friends using your chosen platform, virtual media in business can connect you with former colleagues or people with whom you may consider doing future business. But do you really connect or only appear to?

I start from the principle that it’s easier to build trust relationships with people known to you. Knowing your customers or suppliers as business partners is an important foundation for any significant business you may conduct together. This is quite different from commoditised transactions, which are increasingly conducted online and much quicker but decreasingly personal.

In my experience, the growth of virtual business communications has normalised some behaviours that can distance people from each other, may weaken trust relationships and potentially dilute established business practices to the extent that some markets have become distorted. This is the first of four guest blogs where each will focus on one difference between virtual and actual media.

Difference 1: The Illusion Of Progress 

Clicking a link or sending a digital message is not the same as taking action.

A 2013 study at British Columbia University’s Sauder School of Business, found that when people have the option of liking a cause with which they agree by clicking a button, this will usually be at the expense of committing actual time and money to it, which is much more likely if discussed in person. Virtual support is the appearance of an outcome but which makes little difference in reality, described as ‘slacktivism’ rather than activism.

When arriving as FD of a former company, I observed a correlation between the lateness of customer receipts and the telephone silence of my accounts receivable (AR) team. Standard practice was to send reminder emails to customers, which were repeated in increasing urgent tones until payment eventually arrived. The replacement phone and meeting-based AR model had the objective of building personal rapport with our customers, where proactive customer communications between people was much more successful at ensuring payments on time. It took extra effort, but got the results.

The most effective way of delivering progress or ensuring problem resolution is to get involved actually rather than virtually. This might change in the future, but it still holds true for now.

About the Author: David Burton is an experienced Group Finance Director with particular interest in business environments requiring turnaround or improvement. He has exercised governance or oversight over core Finance functions and operational delivery, including implementation of improved business processes, developing Global Operating Standards, setting group IT strategy, building a commercially viable SAAS portfolio and GDPR as a Data Protection Officer with experience of achieving ISO27001 certification. As a business partner to his fellow board members, David provides colleagues with usable advice and decision support acquired from timely & accurate MI, or managing business improvement interventions.