Should Your Business Get Chatty? New Apps Look Slick, Integrate Well and Make Millennials Happy

Now that group communications apps (chat apps) can integrate with apps critical to your business, is it time for your company to take them seriously? It is if you want to attract Millennial employees!

Slack and dozens of competitors are so popular because they look like social media, let team members share files and avoid email, and integrate with other apps seamlessly. Even Cisco and Microsoft are upgrading their chat apps to 2016 (i.e., Millennial) standards. Here’s what you need to know:

First and foremost — this is not your grandpa’s chat
If you haven’t seen the latest group communication apps in action, you’re in for a surprise. Similar to Web-based project management platforms with friendly, slick interfaces, these apps offer a platform for teams to chat about projects while sharing files so they can collaborate and execute more productively. Everything is cross-platform and syncs across mobile devices and the Web. The apps look like social media platforms and act like them in many ways, too.

And unlike email, there’s no spam, buried attachments, unnecessary cc’s (searchable #hashtags instead) or mistaken Reply Alls.

How many business chat apps can you choose from? After Slack took off, the field became crowded! Here’s a short list: Hipchat, Asana, Glip, Flowdock, Ryver, Gitter, Campfire, ChatGrape, Quip, Wrike and Evernote Work-Chat. Some include voice calling and/or video chat.

But how many of them are built for serious business?

Grandpa was right about some things
Slack and others have come a long way when it comes to security, but when it comes to truly protecting your business, old-school skepticism pays off. If your business deals with sensitive information or needs to comply with government regulations, most chat apps — even those with security features sufficient for other businesses — probably won’t work for you. They weren’t built with compliance-level security and adding on security features later might not cut it when it comes to audits. If someone can delete parts of conversation threads, engage in non-administered private conversations or otherwise circumvent processes and procedures, you risk noncompliance. And you risk loosing new business. If you want to get a Home Depot contract, for example, you can’t be using an insecure chat app.

Chat for regulated businesses and enterprises need to be administered, encrypted, monitored and backed-up.

So can serious chat apps still look like social media and be fun to use?

Old familiar names freshen up their look
When you think about fun, nimble, cutting-edge platforms that make millennials swoon, you think about Cisco and Microsoft, right? Kidding aside, maybe you should. Cisco has Spark and Microsoft has both Yammer and Skype for Business. These offerings take security and critical business operations seriously — look for more options from other established tech companies too.

Integration —  where the magic happens
The tangible benefits of business chat come from the ability of chat apps to integrate with tools you’re already using. Open-source Application Programming Interface, or APIs, give developers the building blocks they need to make apps work with one another. The availability of APIs for group chat apps and business critical apps allow for a marriage made in streamlined-communication heaven. Your team can view and act on many different kinds of data — PDFs, spreadsheets, documents, voice memos, presentations, video and voice calls, for example — all without leaving the single group communication platform.

The easier you make it for people to work together, the better it is for your business. And for employee retention.

Here are more reasons employees love chat.

Is your business ready for chat?
All companies, whether regulated or not, should fully vet a business chat app before implementing it. Sure, it’s cloud-based so you can switch again later, but why guess and waste time? Leapfrog does this kind of homework for our clients. Our Solutions Task Force tests and grades technology solutions so we can recommend the ones proven to work best in different business environments. Do you want happy 30-year-olds and to also be in compliance? There’s an app for that.

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