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IT leaders shouldn't underestimate business messaging

While real-time voice communications are central to the collaboration process, team messaging apps have emerged to play an important role in everyday business communications.

IT decision-makers are underestimating the business value of messaging in the workplace, according to one collaboration expert. While voice and email are still the kingpins of legacy communications, business messaging also adds value to the collaboration process, said Jon Arnold, a unified communications analyst and principal at J Arnold & Associates.

Business messaging is essentially the next generation of instant messaging (IM), but with more application integrations and robust features, such as cloud-based voice and video chat. At the core of the products, however, is a messaging-centric approach to collaboration.  

Perhaps most notably, business messaging integrates with other unified communications and collaboration workflows. At that point, messaging adds more value to a business, since it's no longer a lightweight stand-alone application, which was a weakness for early IM services.

IT managers and business owners with legacy mindsets may not consider messaging as a valuable tool, Arnold said. But millennials -- a young generation of workers flooding the job market -- expect and prefer messaging communications.

"IT needs to adopt a messaging-centric perspective," Arnold said in a recent webinar. "Don't underestimate the potential business value of this application."

Several products to ponder

If end users prefer messaging, you have to cater to that.
Jon Arnoldprincipal of J Arnold & Associates

Business messaging currently has several flavors, including web chat, text messaging, multimedia messaging and even chatbots. Users can message from a mobile client or their desktops.

Business messaging can take on several other monikers, including team collaboration apps, team messaging apps or collaborative messaging, just to name a few options. Vendors often use their own terminology to describe and differentiate their products.

Unified communications vendors are making team collaboration tools the core of their UC offerings.

In the business world, buyers have plenty of messaging products to ponder, including Microsoft Teams, Cisco Spark, RingCentral Glip, Slack, Atlassian Stride, Unify Circuit and many others.

Business messaging is currently driving workplace collaboration, Arnold said, because it's often free, easy to use and works on all devices. Not all communications technologies can boast these incentives. As a result, businesses should expand their thinking to consider messaging use cases, Arnold said.

"If end users prefer messaging, you have to cater to that," he said.  

Cloud and mobility spawn business messaging

Messaging is not new. Businesses have used some kind of messaging for about 20 years, mostly in the form of IM. However, because of the rise of the cloud and mobility, business messaging deployments have become more prevalent in collaboration workflows.

Business messaging largely emerged from the consumer world. As people texted each other in their personal lives on their mobile devices, they then expected and wanted those short bursts of information and communication in their work lives. The messaging interface is also familiar to most users, which helps with adoption.

About one-third of organizations have adopted team messaging applications, and more than 40% of companies are adopting the products on an enterprise-wide basis, according to Nemertes Research, a tech advisory firm based in Mokena, Ill.

Voice and messaging complement each other

Across the communications spectrum, voice and video sit on one end as real-time communications. Email sits on the other end as asynchronous communications. And to fill the void, business messaging generally sits in the middle as near-real-time communications.

Collaboration takes many forms; it doesn't always require telephony. Not every collaboration use case needs the phone.
Jon Arnoldprincipal of J Arnold & Associates

Ultimately, messaging complements voice over IP (VoIP) and unified communications, and it does not replace these existing services. Voice and messaging have their respective pros and cons. Sometimes, a voice call is necessary. Other times, messaging can accomplish certain tasks.

"It's not an either-or thing," Arnold said. "You're not doing this to shut down your phone system. You need them both, because the use cases remain very diverse."

Real-time voice, however, has some engineering complexities and can be difficult to integrate with other applications, Arnold said. VoIP, in particular, might provide a frustrating user experience, especially since the quality can be inferior to on-premises voice systems. Also, VoIP is normally a paid service, while many messaging apps offer free versions.

"All kinds of factors get in the way of making VoIP the best app for everything," Arnold said.

Exploring business messaging use cases

Use cases often dictate which vendor to select. Business messaging can work well for simple internal collaboration or for widely distributed teams where telephony is not convenient, Arnold added.

If deploying a messaging app, consider how your existing services would integrate with potential messaging tools. Also, evaluate your current UC provider and its messaging options.

"You have to keep an open mind about what passes for collaboration," he said. "Collaboration takes many forms; it doesn't always require telephony. Not every collaboration use case needs the phone."

Next Steps

Team messaging offers a new way to collaborate.

Better security could boost team messaging adoption.

Team messaging tools flow into the mainstream.

This was last published in November 2017

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