Oct 18, 2016

    Messaging apps seek to replace workplace e-mail


    LOOKING to break out of a "messy" e-mail situation, the non-profit group recently switched over to a new way of communicating among its far-flung teams.

    Moving most internal communications to the messaging application Slack with its "channels" for various teams made it easier to coordinate the group's social change projects across 131 countries, said software engineer Joe Kent.

    "All the teams have their channels and anyone can jump in and see what the others are doing," he added.

    "You can follow the conversation a lot more quickly."

    Slack, created in 2013, has become a leader in a crowded field of new apps aimed at helping workplaces move away from e-mail.

    With some three million active users, including nearly one million paying for "premium" service, Slack has become one of the fastest-growing business apps.

    This month, Facebook also jumped into this segment with its Workplace application.

    It is among an array of competitors vying for a slice of this market, including start-ups and Microsoft.

    Craig le Clair of Forrester Research said these services are growing because younger "millennials" have different ways of working.

    "They want to work when they want to, they want chat sessions that better integrate with their social-media lives," he noted.

    Mr le Clair said many workplaces are facing "information overload" due to the volume of e-mails that need to be sorted and prioritised.

    "The goal is to get out of e-mail hell," he added.

    Small- and medium-sized businesses find Slack appealing because it is easy to use on both mobile and desktop devices, said Mark Beccue, an analyst from Compass Intelligence.

    The global enterprise chat and messaging market is set to reach US$1.9 billion (S$2.6 billion) by 2019, according to his report.

    Slack and rivals like Atlassian's HipChat offer social media-style interfaces for messages, and some integrate with business apps to enable voice calls, video and other services.

    For instance, Microsoft earlier this year announced that its Yammer messaging platform would integrate with its Office 365 groups, while also offering easy connections to Outlook e-mail and Skype.

    Analysts point out that Slack and similar platforms may increase the burden on employees, becoming an additional "feed" to manage.

    Mr le Clair said artificial intelligence may be the tool that helps sift through messages to stay on track.

    "You're going to need emerging analytics to go through those streams," he added.