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Enterprise Messaging Platforms – An Alternate To Emails

As they say, an excess of anything is bad. For quite some time now, workplaces have been feeling the same regarding their ever-growing stock of emails along with the burgeoning complexity of managing emails, data harnessing and collaborating with team specific tools. To be fair, there have been endeavors in the past; like Yammer, Chatter and Jive that unsuccessfully tried to simplify the workplace communication by weaning businesses away from emails.

However, in this age of disruption, the workplace collaboration revamp also took off in a big way. We now have a niche and extensible communication model for organizations to adopt in place of the traditional and monolithic email system.

The idea is to have a single mode of communication that helps the users collaborate constructively instead of trying to juggle the desktop phone, Skype screen sharing, GoToMeeting video-conferencing, hunting for 3rd party email attachment, customer documents shared on box, rummaging through personal machine for notes, tracking Jira tickets, code climate or CI notifications, buzzing social media activities and much more.

Lately, a new genre of communication platform is evolving that aims to minimize the switching between tools/ browsers/ tabs by consolidating data and information posted by both humans and systems.

So on one hand, there are no-frills, no-spam, simplified team chat apps like Flock and Unison that can be used as alternatives to phase out the monolithic email system. However, organizations could take a bigger plunge to enhance the overall work productivity by completely adapting to the new model as inherited by tools like HipChat and Slack.

At a high level, organizations could look out for the following feature set or parameters before shortlisting any app for team messaging –

  1. Flexibility to use apps seamlessly on the desktop, mobile device, on the web or in some cases, a wearable like apple watch too. There should be adequate support for Windows, Mac, Linux, popular browsers, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone.
  2. Ability to have persistent one-on-one as well as multiple topic/ team discussions. Each app has its own terminology for these persistent discussions like channels, groups, rooms and flows.
  3. Regular paraphernalia associated with a messaging app like drag and drop attachments, @mentions and pins.
  4. Video conferencing and/or screen sharing.
  5. Powerful search capabilities across messages, attachments and links.

For the next round of filtering, some advanced parameters to benchmark are 

  1. Integrations/Bots
  2. Pricing
  3. Security
  4. Existing customer base
  5. USPs – private cloud, SSO, guest access etc

Let us evaluate a few emerging team chats against these benchmarks –

  1. Grape
  2. HipChat
  3. Slack
  4. Flowdock
  5. Fleep

1. Grape

  • Integrations – As of now the service integrations are very few in number. Option of creating custom integration is available using web hooks and APIs.
  • Pricing – 30 day free trial. €5 per user/month thereafter.
  • Security – All communications are encrypted with 256-bit Secured Socket Layer (SSL).
  • USP – Enterprise package also includes on-premises, SSO and LDAP. The product provides auto completion, video conferencing and screen sharing features as well.

2. HipChat

  • Integrations – The app has more than 90 integrations; Option of creating custom integration is available using web hooks and APIs.
  • Pricing – Basic plan is free. HipChat plus plan is priced at $2 per user/month and includes additional features like video calling, screen sharing, unlimited file storage and unlimited searchable message history.
  • Security – All communications are encrypted with 256-bit Secured Socket Layer (SSL).
  • USPs – Has the option of on-premise setup, video call and screen sharing. Also, it is worth mentioning that the product is from Atlassian group of Jira fame.
  • Few Existing CustomersIntridea, Expedia, Salesforce, New Relic, Intuit and Fitbit.

HipChat

3. Slack

  • Integrations – There are many integrations in diverse categories varying from project management to HR to marketing to developer tools. APIs are also available to create your own custom integration if required.
  • Pricing – Free basic plan with a limit of 10k searchable messages history and 10 service integrations. The paid plans are definitely on the higher side compared to other products, however these also include quite many value-adds like 2Factor authentication, SSO and Real time Active Directory sync.
  • Security – All communications are encrypted with 256-bit Secured Socket Layer (SSL).
  • USPs – Slick and user-friendly interface supported by a plethora of productivity features.
  • Few Existing Customers – NASA, The New York Times, Spotify, Box and many more.

slack

4. Flowdock

  • Integrations – Integrates with 80+ apps in different categories from project management, version control, continuous integration, monitoring, deployment and customer support
  • Pricing – 30 day free trial. $3 per user/month
  • Security – The platform runs on AWS and is based on the NIST 800-53 Rev 4 industry standard
  • USP – The product is from Rally group well known for its agile software solutions.
  • Few Existing CustomersMaestrodev, Xobni

5. Fleep

  • Integrations – Limited number of integrations as of now but web hooks and APIs available for creating custom integrations
  • Pricing – Free basic plan, but unlike Slack and HipChat, there are no limits on historical access of messages and files. The paid plan is priced at €1 per user/month.
  • Security – All communications are SSL encrypted with Perfect Forward Secrecy protocol.
  • USP – Unlimited historical access of messages in free basic plan.
  • Few Existing CustomersBigBank, DreamApply, Kodasema, Fututec

With these options for enterprise-messaging platform, Slack and HipChat seem to be the emerging leaders. However, each organization’s needs are different and the above evaluation would only help one to shortlist the contenders. My suggestion would be to try out each pick for a week at least in order to be able to objectively compare before arriving at the final conclusion.

Whatever may be your organization’s choice of messaging app, one thing is for sure that the era of emails as the sole enterprise communication model is now about to end.

4 Comments

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  1. Definitely an “YES”, let me share an experience with you to prove why this would be a major relief to many working at corporates or anyone who is managing a single account to communicate with there workmate. I had applied to a scholarship for an organization after clearing there entrance exam, and was hoping to hear from them soon. But i did not receive any mail from them so i decided to write to them asking for information regarding results, i was replied by a person from the organization stating the selected candidates have already been sent the application via mail and asked me to check my inbox and spam, and when i did i found the application in my spam folder were the mail was automatically screened as an spam. I lost the opportunity to apply because the last date to apply had already been past a week.

    What i am trying to say is these platforms not only provides security, reliability but also an effective platform to isolate the required content from the rest which is not possible through emails were we end up losing the important files or accidentally deleting them. As mentioned in the above article the enterprise-messaging platform (Ex: Slack, HipChat) is an effective way of achieving this which forms an all in one platform as per the required needs.

  2. A good insight.I have used HipChat. and it is a great enterprise tool for collaboration.It provides good integration with other Atlassian product line like Jira, CI engines like Bamboo.

  3. Thanks Andrei.

    Here is what I think –
    – This approach of multiple companies with different chat services has its advantages if these multiple teams adopt different chat services for evaluation purpose and then eventually coordinate, compare and conclude the best way forward. However, if the teams continue to rely on their independent choices without converging, then this approach would only add to the enterprise messaging chaos. So I would recommend multiple teams of a single enterprise to collate their observations and arrive at a final choice of chat service to extract the maximum benefit.

    – The key factors to look out for in external collaboration whether inter or intra company, are secure authentication and authorization. Of course, the stress on security gets enhanced many folds when we talk about inter-company communication.
    One could look at the option of 2 Factor SSO authentication as a seamless and secure approach for external collaboration.
    Once authenticated, the logged in user needs to be assigned an appropriate role. The external collaborators could be issued guest access or a more powerful role on need basis with strong emphasis on security.

  4. Neeti, nice post!

    What would you recommend for companies where multiple teams adopt several different chat services independently?

    Also, how should teams using these applications deal with long-term external collaboration, inter- or intra-company?

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