For decades, email has been the primary channel for workplace communication. However, lately, there's been a new kid in town. And that new kid is messaging apps. Employees are using messaging apps to interact with co-workers more than ever before. Enterprise messaging platforms such as Slack and Microsoft (MS) Teams have seen tremendous adoption in the past few years, with 12 million and 13 million daily active users, respectively. Unlike email, which can sometimes feel stodgy and unnecessarily verbose, messaging is casual, brief, and elicits real-time responses. This is why leadership and IT teams are now looking to formalise messaging as a communication channel within their enterprise. But which specific platform should they choose?
With several enterprise messaging and communication platforms in the market today, here are some key aspects to consider when making a decision.
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Team versus top-down communication
Platforms such as MS Teams and Slack have worked smoothly for communication between immediate teams. But only five per cent of Slack users are signed in to five or more teams. This means that most employees mainly use the platform to communicate with their closest colleagues. While it works great for that purpose, these platforms may not be an ideal choice for top-down communication. On the other hand, platforms such as Workplace from Facebook, Yammer, and Groupe.io have a better track record at company-wide communication. This is why Microsoft continues to support Yammer alongside Teams.
Frontline versus knowledge workers
Slack and Teams' sophisticated and advanced interfaces tend to work well for a company whose primary user base is knowledge workers. However, if a particular organisation is looking to leverage messaging channels to connect and reach their frontline workforce—for example, those in the retail, hospitality, or construction industries—a different approach and interface might be necessary. Additionally, the frontline or contingent workforce does not usually have corporate emails, so the traditional way of onboarding employees is a challenge. Some platforms provide alternative means of signing on employees that do not require a corporate email.
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Easy integration with existing systems and tools often fuels an enterprise's decision to adopt a messaging platform. These integrations enable users to stay on top of their tasks and collaborate with peers contextually. However, this mainly applies to the specific tools and workflow of knowledge workers. Most platforms do not provide meaningful integration with enterprise systems that may be relevant to the traditional workforce. So, when selecting a platform, it's essential to consider one that integrates with your core systems but also provides the extensibility to develop custom integrations through micro apps, bots, and more. Integration with automation platforms, such as Zapier, would be useful, as well.
Pew Research projects that by 2055, the United States will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. Additionally, large corporations have distributed teams across the globe where language can present a considerable barrier. Messaging apps are leveraging AI and machine learning to support in-line translation to combat language barriers. This feature enables users to tap on any message and instantly view a translated text in the language of their choice. Additionally, these apps also support text-to-speech, which can aid visually impaired users.
Controls and moderation
The casual tone of interoffice messaging, sometimes considered a strength, can also be considered its greatest weakness. The heftiest challenge that messaging platforms create for IT teams is the lack of visibility and control on how information gets shared. These platforms make it easy to create groups, add users on the fly, and start conversations between closed groups. While this does have its advantages, it could also easily lead to sensitive information being shared or discussed in an unauthorised manner. Any user-generated content in a social setup also increases the probability of profanity or abusive material. Enterprises must look for platforms that provide fine-grained authorisation and privileges, while also offering automation tools that flag profane or offensive content.
One of the biggest challenges enterprises face is the ability to quantify the success of the messaging platform they are using to achieve their overall objectives. For example, what has been the impact on employee motivation levels after the rollout of the messaging platform? This requires metrics around adoption, usage patterns etc. It’s also important to set a baseline when you implement the messaging platform to measure its impact. This is why it's critical to ensure that the messaging platform provides detailed metrics and the ability to customise metrics specific to the goals that are unique to your organisation.
In conclusion, while there is little doubt that messaging is the path forward in terms of workplace communication, there is no "one size fits all" solution. Enterprises need to look at their own specific culture, their workforce's needs, and their top priorities when selecting a platform that will work best for them.
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