Slack, Facebook at Work, Google Hangouts… a new breed of business-focused instant messaging tools has recently appeared on the market to help us work smarter and faster. Instead of just sharing cat gifs.
When you look around the office, is your team more likely to be sharing Game of Thrones memes than discussing work on instant messenger?
Choosing a new, enterprise-level instant messaging system - and encouraging its correct use - could be the solution.
The right tool works to your advantage; uniting teams, including remote workers, to communicate effectively, share documents and be more productive. We all benefit from asking colleagues for help and advice; now we can do it anywhere, at any time, at the click of a button.
Here are three of the latest tools changing the game:
The incredible Slack is as intuitive as riding a bike. It’s easy to set up group and direct chats, as well as share every type of document. It integrates seamlessly with tools like Twitter, so you don’t waste all day logging in. And its search function is unbeatable; the vague memory ‘the project involved someone called Jones and was to do with Hemel Hempstead’ gives you enough keywords to bring up all your work and saved discussions.
The Slack team hasn’t neglected fun, either. With a vast library of gifs and emojis (plus customisable emojis), you don’t have to leave Slack for anything.
After a few weeks of using Slack, I forgot all about email for internal communication. In fact, email suddenly seemed as old fashioned as writing a letter. Slack became my entire world - there was little reason to open other tools, freeing me from ‘500 open tabs’ syndrome.
Considering what a joy it makes work - and, I think, how much more productive and creative your team could be using it - Slack is worth every penny.
Facebook at Work
Facebook is losing younger users to messaging apps like Snapchat. Facebook’s response? Messaging tools like Facebook at Work.
You already know how to use it; it’s just like Facebook. Except employees don’t have to use their personal profile; you set them up new profiles, protecting their privacy and personal time.
The downside? Facebook is designed to keep users addicted, endlessly scrolling new stories for hours on end. The ‘default setting’ algorithm on Facebook is too loose in my view; ‘a friend of a friend I’ve never met has had a baby’ is not top news. I have the same criticism of Facebook at Work. You could spend hours reading endless information from every corner of the company. Which becomes draining; you feel you’ll never tackle all that irrelevant information. With the wrong settings, Facebook at Work can become yet another distracting tool you have to log into everyday.
Google Hangouts gives you instant messaging, plus video chat and calls. If you’re already in love with Google Apps, this is another string to your bow - you’re already logged in, so it’s integrated with your calendar and email. This means it’s easy to schedule chats with all your contacts.
It’s a great solution if your employees overuse online chat and have forgotten how to build relationships face-to-face. We all know an angry client or customer is more easily appeased in person, and that some problems cannot be hammered out with text alone. It’s not the same as being in the room, but it’s a great bridge builder when that’s impossible.
Google has a phenomenal track record in constantly adding new functionality to Google Apps. It’s a great partner to growing businesses which want to stay ahead in the technology game.
The future of messaging apps?
This summer, we get to see the future of messaging: when Google releases Allo (smart messaging) and Duo (video chat).
Allo blurs the line between messaging app and personal assistant; providing automatic message responses for you to choose from, including emojis. It learns your natural language from your previous conversations. It can even ‘read’ pictures.
Best of all, you can use all the Google apps through Allo, so no screen jumping. Google assistant can take events you discuss in Allo and add them to your calendar, even booking your train tickets. You can message the Google assistant questions like ‘Is my train delayed?’ for a Siri-like text answer.
Duo is the video chat upgrade Google promises will cope with any network, whether cellular or the patchiest WiFi. It gives you a fun ‘live video preview’ of the caller before you pick up.
All the commentators have noted how much users adore messaging apps, both for work and play. One day, we will have the technology to manage our lives entirely in messenger apps; with everything saved in one place, all our conversations searchable and through an interface which learns how we like to work. The future is exciting!
- Enforce a strong messaging policy. Some non-work chat helps employees bond; too much wastes time.
- Consider monitoring. It’s unpopular, but could boost security and help you police usage.
- Try one of these new messaging tools. The best apps are as easy to learn to use as Whatsapp and could transform productivity.