Employees bring messaging services such as WhatsApp into the workplace. Fast communication using a smartphone makes it easy to communicate with teammates. Companies can benefit from this – if they know how.
Daniel Boos, February
E-mail is still the number one means of communication in business. But it takes up a lot of time in day-to-day business: A study by McKinsey in 2012 showed that employees spend about a quarter of their working day on e-mail. Managing e-mails and orchestrating other communication and information channels – such as the phone and document filing – costs a lot in terms of attention and money.
Users are increasingly relying on messaging in their private lives. With services such as WhatsApp, Snapchat or iO, they communicate spontaneously and quickly, using multimedia, in pairs or in groups, and also with the ability to instantly view the read status of their counterparts.
Recently, this trend has also arrived in the workplace. Within a few months, the start-up Slack was able to acquire two million users for its chat solution for teams. Even established providers are jumping on the messaging bandwagon or getting into the game with private customer solutions in the business sector. With Spark, Cisco is offering a communication solution that focuses on messaging. The messenger popular in China WeChat has WeChat Enterprise, and Facebook is working on a corporate solution. TeamChat, HipChat, Eko, Unify Circuit, Flowdock, Beekeeper and ChatGrape are names among many others – those who want to roll out a messaging service in their company are spoiled for choice.
Then discuss the potential to be gained from modern styles of work in your company together with our Work Smart experts.
«With a good messenger, employees communicate as they work together: spontaneously, in an integrated manner, across teams, independent of device and location and securely.»
Is messaging just another hyped attempt by software publishers to replace the universally unpopular e-mail? Who still remembers Google Wave, Microsoft Messenger or ICQ? According to Gartner (2015), messaging will play an important role in business in any event: By 2018, half of all communication and coordination in teams will take place using mobile group collaboration apps. Other analysts also forecast a surge in chat and messaging in the corporate world and speak of a global market volume of 1.9 billion US dollars by 2019. In the private sector, messaging services have overtaken status messages in social networks such as Facebook.
The fact is that the world of work, that is, the structures, forms of cooperation and cultures of businesses, is in upheaval. Collaboration between employees is spontaneous, spans business units and companies, is independent of place, and is across multiple systems and platforms with different devices. Agile approaches such as Scrum or Kanban are spreading in companies.
For many knowledge workers, messaging is a convenient form of interaction that is less bureaucratic and more efficient than e-mail and more flexible than telephoning. It is a good mix between synchronous and asynchronous communication. Discussions are structured across spaces or channels and clearly displayed. Images and links are quickly shared in the team. A strong search and the option of using APIs to integrate other cloud services like Dropbox data storage, the project tool Trello or the calendar increase productivity and improve collaboration. Notifications quickly and easily provide information about projects, pending tasks and news. Bots, that is, little robots, take over tasks like finding dates for appointments. Whether on the computer or smartphone: The information is current everywhere.
Messaging is convenient and easily accessible. Experience has shown that employees are also able to better communicate informally this way. Teams use dedicated spaces to promptly share information on a project and have it all in one place. Using micro-coordination, the next appointment is quickly set, help is available and feedback is given – and everything is centralised without e-mail. External parties are also involved with just a few clicks.
In addition to knowledge workers, employees without a computer also benefit – in trade, transportation or the hotel industry, for example: Thanks to messaging apps on the smartphone, employees can be reached and can communicate in real time with one other. If someone cannot solve a problem by themselves, for example, he can send a photo to a group of colleagues and quickly get assistance.
Messaging services offer companies many advantages: When employees can communicate with each other easier, faster and more effectively, their work processors are shorter, and they work more productively. Such solutions can bring employees closer together, increase their identification with the team and thus strengthen cohesion, even if they do not see each other in person for a long time. The usual tools of companies – such as e-mail, a static intranet, or a UCC solution limited to the computer – fall short here. That’s why many employees are falling back on private solutions or offers of start-ups from the cloud. But that poses risks for the company – including ones related to security: The data leaves the company and can be viewed, stolen or tampered with. No one can ensure that only employees have access to business-critical data. Messaging solutions that are rolled out and used on a decentralised basis can also end in a mishmash. No one has control, and adaptation to the requirements is not possible.
«Enterprise Messaging Services are intuitive to use, and the users are usually familiar with the features from private use.»
A company that wants to roll out a messaging service for its communication is likely to find high levels of acceptance among employees. Enterprise Messaging Services are intuitive to use, and the users are usually familiar with the features from private use. Nevertheless, in the selection and implementation of a messaging solution, several points need to be considered:
What chat and collaboration applications are already used in the company for what purpose? Finding this out will help the company find a solution that fits the needs of the employees. Simultaneously, the existing channels of communication can be better coordinated.
Cloud-based solutions can be utilised without much effort. But in isolation they only add value to a limited extent. A team can be more productive when shared workspaces, the address directory and other central applications are easily integrated through APIs.
A smart solution not only sends messages but also manages employees, teams and entire organisations. It should be possible to administrate channels, integrations and other options centrally. If dissemination and use are automatically analysed, such a solution can be adapted in a targeted manner.
A messaging solution must meet all security and legal requirements of the company. Data protection must be guaranteed, for example by authentication methods, encryption and restricted access.
«Employees must be introduced to the new platform and get used to it.»
Even if a messaging solution offers many advantages, employees must be introduced to the new platform and get used to it. Established rules and a common understanding are to be created, such as which discussions are to be held using the chat function and how they are structured. Without this, chaos threatens to break out on the group chats. Professional guidance on the way to the new era of communication is essential.
Once messaging has established itself internally, this form of interaction provides a great opportunity also in regard to external stakeholder groups: Companies need to constantly exchange information with customers and partners and it must be possible for them to respond better and faster to their needs using messaging.
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