Modern Workplace Communication is Changing, are You?

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The following was published in today’s editions of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

I’m sure you are very familiar with instant messages. Remember AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)? It was all the rage and ushered in the instant communications that many of us use daily. Today, the tools are more mature and AIM is all but non-existent, replaced by the likes of Skype, Trillian and others.

As these technologies have matured, they have also morphed into a new category of apps that are more about collaboration in the modern workplace. Many have become the central focus for all manner of business activities.

The most well known in this class is Slack. Slack bills itself as being “Where Work Happens.” From its web site, “When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered.”

Tools like this are all about centralizing and streamlining work flows. Key to this is having communications follow a natural flow, keeping the conversations grouped together like a normal person to person conversation. These tools also provide a far richer user experience, incorporating workflows, all types of documents and more. Think of it as a central hub for the business. We are talking about far more than simple instant messaging.

While Slack has owned this space for some time, both Microsoft and Google have launched competitive offerings that are gaining ground quickly. Microsoft has launched Microsoft Teams as part of the Office 365 suite, effectively giving every Office 365 user Teams for free. This is making a serious dent in the market and Microsoft is gaining significant market share in this space. Not to be outdone by others, Google has revamped their Google Hangouts app to compete with Slack and Teams.

Google Hangouts seems to have its initial redevelopment focused firmly around the conversation. That conversation may be a video call, phone call or instant message. It’s all about the conversation. This is Google’s second launch of Hangouts, so time will tell how successful this product will be in the space. Google is targeting enterprise businesses, aligning Hangouts with the G Suite of applications, similar to Microsoft’s strategy with Office 365 and Teams.

Microsoft bills Teams as “the hub for teamwork in Office 365.” Teams is tightly integrated with Skype, leveraging Microsoft’s existing technologies to bring together voice, video and messaging in the team environment. Teams is all about working in teams, publicly or privately, to collaborate and advance any type of project within a business.

The similarities are fairly obvious with each. My expectation is that if you use Office 365, you will use Teams. If you use G Suite, you will use Hangouts. If you don’t use either, or even if you do, you will use Slack. Confused yet? Don’t be. If you are already using Slack, stick with it. If you’re not and you are using Microsoft’s or Google’s services, use their tool. The integrations between the collaboration platform and the rest of the application suite will make things far more efficient for your users and that’s the point, isn’t it? Make it easier to get work done, not harder.

Each of these tools has a corresponding mobile app for the Android or iOS platform, so you can take your work with you wherever you need to. You can stay connected virtually anywhere; a very basic need for just about any business. If you are using instant messaging in your business, you need to take a look at these tools. The ability to create dedicated “rooms” or “channels” for focused conversations is great, as are all the other features built in to these tools. Far more than I can adequately outline in this article. I encourage you to check them out and all the integrations available to make these truly be a central hub of communication for your company.

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