The productivity puzzle – how enterprise messaging platforms will shape the future workplace

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In an age where technology has influenced every aspect of life, it is no surprise that it has already had a profound effect on how we all communicate. After the phenomenal rise in the use of Personal messaging tools, technology has already started impacting how businesses communicate internally.

With multiple options of chat services available, employees are experiencing new levels of connectivity across the globe. Now, in what is becoming a crowded marketplace, enterprise messengers are innovating to develop additional features in order to offer unique solutions and stand out from their competitors.

Bhavin Turakhia, is a serial tech entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Flock - the real-time messaging and collaboration app for teams, and has over 19 years of experience in the sector. As the founder of Flock, Bhavin answers some of the key questions regarding the industry and where it looks to be heading.

Tell us about yourself, your career and why you’re passionate about enterprise messengers.

I am a serial tech entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Flock - a communication and collaboration app for modern teams. I have over 19 years of experience in the sector, and have founded 11 companies to date.

For the last few years, I have been working with my team to develop and market Flock, a real-time messaging and collaboration app for teams that simplifies communication and boosts productivity. Flock offers powerful features and a slick, easy-to-use interface, making it an ideal tool for organisations looking to move to a real-time communication model. It’s already the communication tool of choice of over 25,000 companies globally.

My passion for the enterprise messenger space stems from the idea that we can leverage technology to make our daily work lives much more productive and simpler. We can also set up processes and automations that will help us focus on more high-value projects, rather than on everyday tasks.

I truly believe that tech tools, especially team messengers, have the ability bring together people onto one platform and work seamlessly.

Why have you decided to invest in the enterprise messenger market?

There came a point when I realised that team communication, in businesses as a category, was largely becoming a stagnant space. There have been barely any changes in the way we communicate at work in the past decade. While email is an ubiquitous tool among teams, it hasn’t evolved during the last ten years. On the other hand, our business ecosystem has grown, activities have become much more collaborative. And that’s why we need to be able to respond quickly to many workplace challenges. Thus, there is clearly a need for tools that let users collaborate seamlessly and in real-time.

What should companies look for when looking for a new enterprise messenger tool?

To begin with, a good enterprise messaging tool should have a clean and simple User Interface (UI). A noisy or cluttered UI is an absolute no-no. The app should allow you to customise the interface and the way your chats appear.

Going a step further, a great enterprise messaging tool should offer a fully functional task manager, that helps manage  your to-do list as well as your team’s in a more efficient manner.

Your tool should also provide integrations with apps that you use on a daily basis. This is especially important considering that people spend so much time switching between different tools to get their work done. Flock, for instance, lets users not only receive notifications, but also respond to and manage their activities from within Flock itself.

Further, you should be able to see contacts that you communicate with frequently and regularly (known as magic lists on Flock) via one touch. So, your tool should use data analysis to make your life more productive and efficient.

Essentially, a great team messenger should make your daily tasks easier and faster - rather than focusing on frills and superficial features.

Please give us an overview of the enterprise messenger market landscape, both globally and in the UK, and how it is developing.

Personal messaging tools have certainly been more popular across the world, including workplaces in the UK. But with increasing incidences of confidential company data being leaked through these personal messengers, I think workplaces are certainly more likely to stress on the adoption of enterprise messaging apps and tools.

While the European tech industry has grown significantly during the past few years, the UK is emerging as the digital capital of Europe. More people are adapting to technology, and the coming years will witness newer ways of communication and collaboration become an indispensable part of our lives. Interestingly, what further emphasises the need for a product like Flock in this market is the fact that the productivity level in the UK has been below the average compared with those of the other G7 advanced economies. With the right appetite for technology and the need for enhanced productivity, the UK makes for a very exciting market for Flock.

Further, Flock is a growing company that is expanding geographically, and our main business objective is to become the messaging and productivity app of choice for enterprises and communities across the globe.

In a crowded marketplace, how can enterprise messenger products stand out from their competitors?

It’s a very interesting time for technology, with so many new things on the horizon. Some of the biggest trends to look forward to in terms of enterprise messengers are machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR),virtual reality (VR), and smart home tech. Companies have already released early-stage products and software for some of these technologies, making it an interesting space to watch out for.

By virtue of the enterprise messaging space being as competitive as it is right now, there’s space for a lot of creativity and newness. While the founding base will remain the chat services, it’s the additional top ups that will make it an interesting space.

How are enterprise messengers today using new technologies such as AI, and how do you think this is likely to develop in the future?

AI, for one, could be used to replace or augment the services of an assistant at the workplace, including handling communication, replying to emails, etc. It can effectively replace the need for manual intervention when it comes to so many repetitive tasks.

From an information management standpoint within a company, AI integrated into an enterprise messenger can be used to make internal information accessible to all stakeholders.

Currently, information is mostly not accessible to everyone or is not easily searchable. I expect this to change in the next five years, and dramatically over the next 15 or so with the help of AI. Overall, I expect workplace activities and systems, powered by technology, to become more dynamic and open.

These technologies have an integral role to play in the future of office work and there are many more exciting things to come from this space. Sooner or later, the only tasks that will remain as exclusively human ones will be those that require more strategic, decision-making levels of thinking. These are the types of tasks that only a human can provide context for and that will still require human-to-human communication - whether face-to-face or through a platform.

How can enterprise messengers ensure that these new uses of AI and other new technologies are integrated in a way that is truly useful to office workers?

I expect that AI and similar technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will completely revolutionise the way we work, communicate and administer our business lives. Take scheduling a meeting for example. In today’s world, scheduling a meeting typically involves emails and phone calls and back-and-forth to find a suitable time and place. Then there’s the nightmare of repeating the process if one of you has something urgent to attend to.

With AI, that headache will be a thing of the past. AI can check calendars, room availability and potential diversions in a matter of seconds - and make recommendations for you based on your business needs. Take that up a level to AR and finding a room won’t even be necessary.

Communicating with distributed teams will be intensely streamlined, and time will be saved. These advancements will make global businesses more connected, robust and able to deliver on their goals.

Finally, what do you think enterprise messengers, and office productivity tools more generally, will look like in 10 years time?

The next ten years are going to be crucial for the adoption of team messaging apps across the globe. Newer ways of communication and collaboration are going to become an indispensable part of our lives and I see Flock as one of the leaders in this category.

We want to gain not just a large chunk of the global market share, but also offer to our users the most competitive, innovative and efficient solution to our users for their communication needs.

Like I said, user experience has to be the number one priority. Enterprise messengers have the potential of becoming an all-encompassing platforms. This can be done by introducing features and apps based on what our users ask for, or making app platforms and APIs open to all. The industry as a whole will evolve for the better by adopting a customer-first approach in all its tasks and priorities.

Bhavin Turakhia, Founder and CEO of Flock
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock