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How messaging platforms disrupted the UC market

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: Enterprise Connect 2017 conference coverage

These days, disruption and innovation entwine like a hashtag. As an example, Slack and other messaging platforms have ruffled the unified communications market with a new way of working and collaborating.

Several factors have sparked the success of messaging platforms and disrupted traditional UC offerings. For instance, consumer communication habits, such as texting, have bled into the business world. Younger workers, reared on the internet and mobile devices, prefer texting rather than calling. Teams are more dispersed, too, which underscores the need for new collaboration tools. And, alas, work never stops in this always-on, project-based business environment.Slack messaging

Aside from shifting workplace and workforce trends, the technology has also evolved to focus on cloud, software and web-based communications, which aim to ease UC deployments.

Slack and other messaging platforms — such as Bitrix24, HipChat, Redbooth and Ryver — offer variations to traditional UC. Enterprises would be well advised to track these new tools to ensure their UC services are keeping pace with this collaboration transformation and determine if messaging platforms coalesce with their communication needs, according to independent analyst Jon Arnold.

“Slack represents a new way of working,” Arnold said in a recent Ziff Davis webinar. “It’s different but not necessarily better. Slack is not the ultimate solution for all types of working.”

Freemium model drives rapid adoption

Ultimately, messaging platforms buck traditional UC, which has its roots in telephony. At the same time, Slack and others are morphing into more robust collaboration products as they incorporate voice and video capabilities. Slack is also rolling out an enterprise plan that touts enhanced security and administrative controls.

At last count, Slack boasted more than 4 million daily active users and 1.25 million paying users. Slack is backed by nearly $4 billion from investors.

The free version of Slack and other messaging platforms has been particularly disruptive to the UC market, Arnold said, as end users can easily download the app for free and test it without IT intervention. This freemium model also fuels rapid adoption, and users can upgrade to paid versions with more features.

“Starting out with free is a good way to make a big impression,” Arnold said of the messaging platforms.

But the freemium model also has limited features. For companies that have enterprise-grade demands, Slack and other startups might not be the best fit, Arnold said.

A different form of collaboration

Slack also excels via partnerships and integrations with other web-based applications. In particular, Slack’s integration with Google is one to watch, Arnold said. The two companies have deepened their file-sharing capabilities as Google looks to become an enterprise player and compete with Microsoft.

Other notable partnerships include integrations with SAP and IBM to build in chat bots. A Salesforce customer relationship management integration also makes Slack more valuable in the contact center.

For enterprises with roots in on-premises legacy systems, Slack and other cloud-based messaging platforms might be difficult to comprehend. As outsiders, the Slacks of the world approach collaboration differently.

“Their concept of collaboration might be very different from yours,” Arnold said. “I’m not saying one is better than the other, but they will be different.”

Although voice communications is an important driver for conventional forms of UC, mobile-centric messaging can also boost productivity and drive business value.

“This disruption is real,” Arnold said. “And you have to consider — is this disruption or innovation? Is it good or bad? Is it an opportunity or a threat? It’s a bit of both.”

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