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How messaging apps are raising the stakes with slack

(Image credit: Image Credit: Gilles Lambert / Unsplash)

Chat and messaging apps have been dubbed "email killers" on numerous occasions, but it seems as the business world has room for both. However, now we have different chat apps battling for the attention of employees everywhere.

What are your thoughts on messaging apps like Facebook Workplace and Microsoft Office launching new features to compete with Slack?

Facebook Workplace is best suited for global communication and was originally designed for general social context, whereas Slack’s platform has been noticed for its adoption coming from small teams collaborating with each other seamlessly, with the help of various features such as document sharing, app integrations etc. Facebook quickly recognised these advances and worked on improving their own document management capabilities immensely by adding native Google and Microsoft file pickers. Employees can now find specific content and upload files effortlessly through Facebook Workplace due to its new integrations with sharing platforms like OneDrive, SharePoint, DropBox and Google Drive. Facebook Workplace also added a feature that allows employees to attach documents and insert comments simultaneously.

Microsoft Teams is another messaging platform that has been innovative with their features lately. Microsoft included Teams into their Office 365 bundle, which gives consumers access to various Microsoft applications all on one platform. Teams is looking to leverage this integration process by adding more applications into the Microsoft suite such as Skype, Sharepoint, etc. Their chat feature allows users to communicate with users who utilise Skype for business engagement as well. In addition, Teams is looking to target specific verticals with a pre-created and tailored environment. To support this, Teams is rolling out ‘team templates’ for the healthcare, retail and education industries. These templates are pre-created with necessary channels, apps and workspace in order to optimise that specific industry. As we can see, messaging app platforms are now becoming much more prominent in the overall user experience than ever before.

From your perspective, what do you think are the best practices and features enterprise platforms should implement in order to boost employee productivity, streamline collaboration and stand out amongst the niche, competitive market?

It depends on the industry, enterprise platforms may work better in some areas than others. Slack has been very popular with desk-based and tech savvy users. Teams is a good choice for enterprises that rely heavily on Microsoft systems. Industries such as retail, hospitality, etc. have a large non-desk workforce and have not seen much traction utilising messaging app platforms. Facebook Workplace has seen better success with the frontline workforce because of its well-known and simple user experience platform.

Slack has struggled as a communication channel for enterprise with wide communication, yet been the most effective at a team collaboration level, while Facebook Workplace faces the opposite challenge. Enterprise platforms will need to evolve to cater specific targeted audiences and offer a wide variety of features that every type of user can benefit from.

Enterprise platforms also need to invest in artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable users to become more productive. Slackbot is a beneficial tool that reminds you to complete certain tasks, automatic post reminders in channels or individuals before an event begins. Microsoft Team’s strategically implemented an approach of providing industry-specific templates to help businesses adapt to the platform quicker. This allows businesses to test out which template works best for their team and discover beneficial features that can help employers become more organised, streamlined and collaborative.

Other essential assets and features enterprise platforms should implement are the following:

Conversation Style Platform: The conversational style of messaging apps naturally facilitates casual communication style amongst employees and customers if businesses have that type of relationship with them.

Search: Both Slack and Microsoft Teams offer powerful full text search which makes it easy for users to find any documents, posts, files, etc. more quickly.

#Tag,@mentions: Feature such as @mentions makes it easy for users to notify others and #tags make it easy to organise content which allows them easier to search for.

Integrations: One of the most critical features is integrations with systems and tools that are used by the users of the messaging platform. This includes document management tools, CRM systems, etc. which enables users to take action through the 3rd party systems, directly from the messaging platform or receive any updates from these systems. This type of integration makes it easier for users to stay on top of everything and contextually collaborate while executing their daily tasks.

Task and To-Do: These platform support enables users to quickly create and assign tasks amongst team members. Push notifications on mobile and desktop enable timely reminders.

What do you predict the next wave of features to be as messaging apps continue to develop helpful tools for businesses? 

The next wave of features messaging platforms will implement is to continue integration of enterprise systems. While this is already possible through an API based approach, messaging platforms are looking to provide a UI framework to enable enterprises to write custom lightweight applications. These lightweight applications are single purpose apps that enable users to perform a specific task. Slack recently introduced Block kit framework which enables developers/enterprise to build apps on Slack, and Microsoft Teams introduced Adaptive cards. The micro-app concept is gaining a lot of traction and will be the core differentiator across all messaging platforms in the near future.

Praveen Kanyadi, Cofounder and VP of Product, Groupe.io