Teams and managers in large organizations often struggle to keep track of who they need to contact. This can be difficult on a daily basis. This is why a company-wide contact directory system (Google Workspace LDAP synchronized or not with Microsoft Active Directory) is an important resource to have around.
Globalization has increased the need for communication, and new technologies that promote cross-team collaboration have emerged. It is essential to know who you need to reach in this new landscape.
For Example, Whatsapp has become the standard texting platform, but can you find anyone in your organization on Whatsapp?
Collaborators often face a challenge. Where can they find contact information if they haven’t interacted with the person before?
To send an email in Gmail or share a document in Google Drive, you must have the person’s username. Knowing the username is essential before sending. Otherwise, Google Workspace won’t fill the fields automatically..
The same can be said for phone contacts. Usually, people only add the contact information for their closest collaborators on their work phones, but how will they be able to reach someone else?
This issue impacts all company communication. If you don’t have manually added someone to your Google contacts, it’s impossible to sort through it and find who you need to talk to. So the bigger and more spread out the company is, the bigger the time waste the employees face when searching for information.
It is possible to save time and enhance company-wide communication, by having an always available staff directory. In this article we will explore the advantages of this system, how to implement and update it.
When do you need an up-to-date contact LDAP directory?
Having updated contact information for the people you work with is essential for a better workflow. Sometimes people need to reach out to other branches and departments (that are sometimes in other Google domains) to organize projects. Often, collaboration within the company raises productivity and creativity. It can also bring better solutions to challenges.
But as all user interfaces and devices are not synchronized with all the LDAPS servers of your organization, this is hard to do. Employees are usually only able to find the people they have already interacted with, with no means to recall or find out other people they can reach for.
For example, if a person needs to send a supplier’s information to the Finance department, but they are in a factory setting and have never met the Finance team. How do they find out the coworker they need to ask? This is where a company-wide directory comes in handy.
Or what about a seminar between people from different departments? If you haven’t previously added them on Whatsapp or any other messaging system, how will you know their number to meet for the night-out?
Or what about in Sales and Marketing, where often people need to reach Tech and Customer Support teams for assistance? There needs to be a quicker way to find out who you need to talk to.
Of course, this spans the usual office environment and impacts outside sources as well. If a team member needs to reach the company’s lawyer for advice, but doesn’t know their name, it can be difficult to finish tasks on time. If there’s an emergency with a delivery truck, how can they reach the central manager to avoid delays if they don’t have the updated information?
What are the biggest concerns about LDAP servers?
LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) servers are a type of server that provides a hierarchical directory service for storing and organizing information in an environment. Information about users, groups, devices and other resources.
This method is typically used in corporate environments to provide a centralized database of user accounts and other information that can be accessed by various applications and services. They use a client-server architecture, where clients (people and applications) can query the directory information stored on the server. The server responds to said requests.
In Google Workspace, the LDAP function is included in the Google Admin console.
However, there are a few issues with this system, even though it’s widely used in different companies and economic settings:
Lack of synchronization and accessibility
Ideally, the LDAP server should be accessible from any device and user connected to the network, even offline. However, the issue companies using Google Workspace face is that their whole company directory isn’t fully in sync with mobile devices (especially iPhones), with certain tools or applications (like Zoom or their CRM), or with users outside of the main Google domain.
For example, employees always need to manually add the contact details of their colleagues on their mobile phones manually. Meaning: if you usually interact with someone via email or Google Meet, you need to find their phone number on your own to add it to your phone contact book. And all your colleagues will have to perform the exact same operation if they want to call that person one day!
IT, privacy and security concerns
One of the issues with LDAP servers like Google Workspace domain directories is that they require admin access to update. Often, IT teams are responsible for setting up the system and adding information, then sharing it with the company.
However, keeping them updated is not the top priority for IT. Yet, they might not let the users themselves to update contact information, as that requires admin permissions and poses a security risk for data breaches.
How to update Employees contact details by non-admins
In Google Workspace, if you share your directory with your domain users, it will automatically give access to all the contact details of everyone. However, you may want to hide some information (like the personal phone numbers or address, or notes and comments) from certain users. The lack of field-level security features could discourage organizations from fully indulging in directory contacts sharing.
Lack of updates
With that comes the issue of unusable information. If you have a directory, but the fields— like phone numbers for instance— aren’t regularly updated, it means people will spend time trying to reach unreachable contacts. Once they have found the right info, they need to add the same details manually on their devices. That causes a lot of productivity loss and lack of communication within the company.
Non ideal shareability
If you need to share a lot of contact information with other people – investors, freelancers, suppliers, third-party consultants, etc – how can you do this easily? For example, if the Accounting service requires constant communication with the Sales team, how can the company be sure they know all the people on the inside and that they can reach them at all times? Or who is responsible for a specific project or client?
It would be ideal for them to have access to the directory itself, especially segmented by departments they have contact with.
The same issue is part of inter branch communication. If a company works across the globe and requires a lot of asynchronous team collaboration, it’s important that the subdirectories get fully integrated and people can reach across geographical and hierarchical limits.
All of the above is unfortunately impossible with Google Workspace out of the box. For instance, there is absolutely no way to share your Google Workspace Directory to users outside of your organization.
5 key steps for a better contact directory system
So, to make communication better, faster and clearer, it’s important to have a contact system that allows people to find whoever they need in a fast manner. There are a few essential steps to achieve this:
Give users the power to update
One of the most important parts of a contact directory is keeping it updated. But with a lot of demands and changes they are not always aware of, IT teams cannot fully attend to this matter. Which is why systems that allow for users to update their own contact profiles (phone, bio etc.) are much easier.
Encourage team members to add notes and comments in addition to basic contact information, and remind them that keeping their data up to date is better for collaboration and peace of mind.
Alternatively, you can also enable department managers or admin assistants to update the LDAP information of their own teams.
Removing this responsibility off IT teams’ shoulders is a time-saver tactic. It will also ensure contact details updates come from the source directly.
Synchronize with other tools
For a contact directory to be fully useful, it needs to be accessible anytime, from anywhere. AKA: recognizable by the entire network. That is, not only users, but devices and apps that display user information. Integrating your contacts to tools such as Gmail, Google Drive, Whatsapp, Zoom and many others is important – that way, if you decide to collaborate with someone, you can do it without hassle.
Share and organize as needed
The best contact directory servers have a great sharing method. They are easily viewed by the entire company, all while staying secure through tech protection.
Remember: users don’t always know the name of the person they want to reach. Sometimes you know their region, their department or just their picture. Ensure you provide a searching feature for users to look for who they need based on hierarchy, expertise or location.
Secure contact information
Sharing contact information is great, but not at the expense of privacy. Ensure that your directory management system allows access of the right contacts to the right users. Moreover, make sure that when a contact is shared, only the right people can see/update the right data. For instance, a school should share basic info of everyone (email address, name, profile picture), but may want to hide the personal addresses or the notes added by teachers about the students from non-admin staff. A secure LDAP is the key.
Shared directory benefits
When a company provides their staff with ubiquitous access to a complete, up-to-date directory, they ensure easier communication and fewer misunderstandings. That way everyone has a better workflow and can focus on tasks at hand better.
Learn more about the best practices in our guide to contact management!