Why Team Chat Alone Isn’t Enterprise Collaboration

While there’s a great deal of chatter about team chat applications, actual enterprise adoption remains low. Why? Quite possibly it’s because enterprises won’t invest in new tools without a specific need; and when such needs are identified, team chat apps often lack the functionality required to address them.

A recent study by Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research, defines team chat apps as those that:
Why team chat alone isn't enterprise collaboration

  • “Offer persistent group collaboration spaces that include text chat, document sharing, and often voice/video/desktop sharing;
  • Are typically available via mobile app stores or via a browser as a cloud/software-as-a-service (SaaS) product;
  • Enable easy inclusion of team members from inside and outside of the corporate firewall; and
  • Offer a freemium model designed to get users hooked, and then pay for additional functionality such as security and management.”

That’s a great start; and these capabilities may be sufficient for simple, transitory collaboration needs. But for projects like managing IT changes or upgrades—or resolving urgent, complex enterprise problems such as responding to a data breach, or fixing a major network or data center outage—team chat apps are missing vital capabilities.

For example, simple chats are by their nature transitory; so team chat tools generally don’t provide the ability to archive sessions for later audit, reference or training purposes. Other features commonly missing include:

  • Ability to promote important points to “facts” or “unknowns”;
  • An easy way to attach and view files (documents, photos, diagrams, etc.);
  • Different permissions (and security levels) for participants inside and outside the organization;
  • Capability for users to view all of their open and closed issues in one place;
  • Ability for new users to rapidly get up to speed on situations and progress, and for managers to quickly check on the status of open issues;
  • Functionality to assign and manage tasks; and
  • Inbound and outbound integration with other tools.

That last capability is particularly crucial as more than 40% of respondents in the Nemertes study expect collaboration tools to “augment (their) existing apps.” These could include anything from CRM or ITSM systems, to voice/video and desktop sharing, to remote connectivity tools.

The opportunity is open for tools that meet vital enterprise needs while addressing security and other concerns with team chat. According to the Nemertes research, “76% of participants (have) no active plans to evaluate team chat apps,” though a plurality “said they view the space with interest, but they don’t yet have an opinion on how team chat apps will affect their collaboration strategies.”

Adoption of enterprise collaboration tools will be driven by clear and compelling needs, such as bringing together experts from inside and outside (vendors, consultants, service providers) the organization to collaborate on resolving large, urgent issues. It’s essential that tools provide the capabilities required in such situations.

Lazar concludes by noting that there are already pockets of users in many organizations using simple SaaS-based chat, file-sharing, and similar apps “fueling demand on IT to provide an ‘authorized’ solution that aligns with security and information governance needs.”

In other areas, such as enterprise service catalogs, tools originally adopted by IT have generated interest across organizations as employees in other functions (finance, facilities, HR, etc.) realized the potential uses in and benefits for their groups. The spread of enterprise collaboration tools may follow a similar path, as apps designed to help IT groups fix network outages or manage system changes and upgrades are embraced by other departments and business units.

Real-time chat is one vital capability for collaborative problem solving. But in many potential enterprise collaboration scenarios, it’s not enough on its own.

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