Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar is the Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, where he manages research operations, develops and manages...
Read Full Bio >>

Irwin Lazar | June 28, 2016 |


Give Us All Your Email: Why Team Chat Will Rule

Give Us All Your Email: Why Team Chat Will Rule Chalk me down as a believer. After nearly six months of using a team chat app, I'm hooked, and I never want to go back to email.

Chalk me down as a believer. After nearly six months of using a team chat app, I'm hooked, and I never want to go back to email.

Call it "team chat," "team messaging," "workstream communications and collaboration," or whatever else you want, apps like Atlassian HipChat, Cisco Spark, RingCentral Glip, Slack, Unify Circuit, and so many more are rapidly changing the way people communicate and collaborate. What started as a response to a growing affinity for texting, and hatred of email, is now bringing many positives (and a few negatives) to business collaboration.

At Nemertes we first looked into team chat apps in late 2014, but quickly decided they didn’t improve workgroup collaboration. At the time, the apps weren't all that user friendly and didn't have strong mobile clients. Our internal processes were tied to email, and ultimately we couldn't get any buy-in or find a problem that team chat could solve.

Fast-forward to this past January, when we launched an Agile approach to research development. Email, we discovered, was a poor medium for the continuous team collaboration that Agile demands and so we gave team chat another look. We quickly found that we finally had a substitute for email.

Team chat isn't all that new. Internet Relay Chat (IRC), for example, allowed early Internet users to carry on conversations on topics ranging from politics to chess. And back around 2007 Microsoft acquired Parlano, a vendor of a persistent chat room server that tightly integrated with Microsoft Live Communications Server and became a part of Microsoft’s on-premises instant messaging offering. However, outside of a few verticals like financial services, persistent chat spaces never really caught on, even as IM flourished.

Today, thanks to the ease of use, the fun factor,and growing availability of apps (I'm currently tracking 37 different team chat apps), team chat appears to be a collaboration tool whose time has finally arrived. Witness the entrance of large collaboration vendors like Cisco and Unify, Slack's rapid growth, Microsoft's acquisition of Talko (and reported interest in Slack), RingCentral's acquisition of Glip, ThinkingPhones purchasing Fuze, and most recently, BroadSoft's acquisition of Intellinote.

Ultimately, the goal of most team chat apps is to bring the conversational ease of texting in the consumer world into business, tying conversations to context such as projects, roles, and teams. We've found the following benefits to using team chat for our internal communications:

  • Context - Our conversations now happen in spaces that tie into our defined roles, projects, and workflows rather than within arbitrary email subject lines. We can attach file repositories, wiki pages, individual files, and hyperlinks to our conversations and have them easily available to all members of the team when in a call or working on team tasks throughout the day
  • Persistence - Like our teams and projects, conversations are continuous. And, if somebody new joins the conversation, he or she can easily review the previous discussion -- something that's difficult to do when using email to collaborate
  • Alerts - On both desktops and mobile devices, alerts let us know about important new messages, and allow us to easily review message streams without having to unlock a phone and start an app, in the exact same way we view texts on our home screens
  • Casualness - Messages are short and to the point; the formality of email is a thing of the past (as are large signatures)
  • Ease of Use - We did virtually no internal training; we just instructed our people to download the app, or use a browser, and poke around before asking for help. Few ever needed assistance
  • Fun - Being able to use emojis, easily embed photos and videos, and even pull in animated gifs from Giphy has added an enjoyment to communications that email simply doesn't provide

Using team chat hasn't been all roses, though. After nearly six months of use, we have found some challenges:

  • Channel/Room Sprawl - You've probably heard the saying "there's an app for that," In our case, that's become, "there's a channel for that." And, sometimes multiple overlapping channels. It's not unusual for conversations to end up in the wrong channel, or have people feel overwhelmed at all the different channels in which live conversations are occurring. Managing channel sprawl using "favorites" and archiving obsolete channels is still a work in progress
  • Notification overload - This is especially daunting for those among us who haven't figured out how best to configure notifications on their mobile devices and desktop computers. We're generating more than 5,000 messages a month, so learning how to use filters, the snooze button, and other tricks to manage notifications is a key requirement for success
  • Vacation management - Going through your inbox, deleting the unimportant messages, and then focusing on the important ones is pretty easy to do when returning from a vacation. But coming back from a disconnected vacation to find 1,200 alerts is overwhelming, and it's a problem we haven't solved yet (and no, the answer shouldn't be, "Stay connected.")
  • Real time is missing - We tested both Slack and HipChat before ultimately settling on Slack. While Slack now has built-in one-to-one and group calling, it's not real useful yet for group conference calls when people are dialing in from multiple locations, especially when those calls include external individuals. The lack of screen sharing is a big constraint on our ability to give up dedicated Web conferencing apps
  • External connectivity - We haven't yet tried it out, and we're fearful that clients might find themselves having to use multiple apps to communicate with others. For external communications, email is still the go-to means of collaborating. We also expect that clients will be unable to use team chat due to governance/compliance requirements that entail the archiving of external communications

For me, the thought of giving up team chat apps and going back to email is about as enticing as trading in my iPhone for a feature phone. Team chat has made my communications and collaboration far more effective and fun, warts and all. If you aren't already looking into the team chat app space, what are you waiting for?

Follow Irwin Lazar on Twitter and Google+!
Irwin Lazar on Google+


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.