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Are team chat apps here to stay?

Team chat is the latest trend in unified communications as business-based messaging has capitalized on the popularity and ubiquity of consumer-based texting. Team chat ultimately aims to boost worker productivity and streamline business workflows.

The popularity of team chat apps has soared in the past year. According to a Nemertes Research study of 40 midsize to large organizations, the use of team chat apps has grown from 2% in 2015 to 33% in 2016.

But a couple analysts are divided on the staying power of team chat apps.

“There’s a lot of hype around this space,” said Frost & Sullivan analyst Rob Arnold, “but I don’t know if these tools are going to be the collaboration solution for the way people work.”

Certain platforms and apps, such as enterprise social software, have tried in the past to create a hub of communications and collaboration, Arnold said. Team chat apps now follow that tradition.

“I like the concept and premise of combining all these communication tools, but I haven’t seen it truly done yet,” he said.

Vendors are rolling out team chat apps to ward off competitors, provide tighter integration for their services or differentiate their services, Arnold said. But as vendors add more tools to their portfolios, users might become overwhelmed.

“There are so many options available,” he said. “You want to have the tools you’re comfortable and confident with.”

However, team chat apps could surpass other previous social platforms by offering better real-time collaboration, said Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar.

“People hate email and have moved into a text-first environment,” he said. “If they’re going to talk to someone, they text before picking up the phone and calling.”

Team chat apps — such as Slack, Spark and the recently announced Microsoft Teams — are as easy to use as texting, but enable corporate control and context, Lazar said.

Enterprise social software, on the other hand, was a massive undertaking for organizations, Lazar said. The deployments usually required a community manager and a complex platform for complex use cases.

“Team chat apps become a hub for work, which is a model that appeals to a lot of people,” he said. “This model is very different from social software.”

Team chat keeps conversations within the context of a topic. Users can also attach files, notes and hyperlinks to a chat space. Lazar said Nemertes uses Slack for internal communication and email for external communication.

“We’ve heard for years that social is going to replace email,” he said. “Team chat has finally done it.”