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Adopting business messaging apps requires changing corporate culture

To successfully adopt business messaging apps in the enterprise, organizations must put end users at the center of a messaging strategy crafted to prevent shadow IT and collaboration silos.

Messaging apps have made their way into the enterprise, but they still need to break through a corporate culture that treats business messaging as a casual communication tool.

Enterprises generally don't view messaging as a serious workflow application. However, the growing popularity of business messaging apps like Slack have disrupted how employees communicate. Business messaging apps, which range from SMS and team collaboration to chatbots, have become the communication mode of choice for a younger generation of employees.

"It's a big imposition on the status quo," said J Arnold & Associates unified communications analyst Jon Arnold, of the emergence of messaging software.

Using business messaging apps is seen as a way to combat user frustration with the slowness of email. As desk phone usage continues to decline, messaging provides an opportunity for quicker and easier collaboration.

For organizations, the key is to decide how messaging will fit within an overall communications strategy. Will messaging be complementary to a collaboration platform or will collaboration be built around messaging?

Changing company culture around business messaging apps

Most people understand messaging in terms of consumer apps, but IT leaders must break through that mold to determine the business value of messaging, said Arnold, who's moderating a panel discussion on business messaging this week at ITEXPO, a business communications conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

First and foremost, IT leaders and lines of business have to recognize where business messaging stands in the value chain of the organization, Arnold said. "If you think of it as a casual, fun thing, you won't perceive it as having much value."

To counter that type of thinking, IT leaders need to treat business messaging like any other workflow channel. If an organization is in a regulated industry, leaders need to understand compliance, security and privacy issues. Employees may share sensitive information such as patient records or banking information over messaging apps.

"It's a legitimate channel and needs to be treated that way," Arnold said. "It's easily overlooked because it's looked at as casual."

Changing the relationship between IT and end users

Business messaging also has the potential to create a shadow IT environment in an organization. IT is losing its grip on owning collaboration platforms as messaging apps like Slack become easily attainable for end users, Arnold said.

"It's like the Tower of Babel," he said. "Everyone's doing what works for them, but it doesn't serve the greater good of the enterprise when you have to go across functions."

When end users download and use their own business messaging apps, it may be costly for organizations that aren't keeping track of how their employees collaborate. IT also risks losing credibility if employees view IT as being out of touch and inflexible with the kinds of apps available to users. Employees may believe they don't need IT to obtain the messaging capabilities; as a result, they acquire them on their own.

The goal is to keep users from creating their own collaboration silos, Arnold said. One approach is to build employees' needs into the organization's business messaging strategy from the outset.

"You have a better chance of bypassing shadow IT by making [employees] feel part of the solution," he said.

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