CIOs today are facing a variety of challenges. Ever more employees are using their personal instant messaging accounts for conducting business conversations and transactions. CIOs have two ways to handle the issue, either completely ban it from the enterprise or embracing it and make best use of the valuable data. A complete ban is not feasible as employees will just keep using what they know best and use every day anyways for their private communication. Adapting instant messaging to interact with the enterprise systems has many advantages such as increased productivity, quicker workflows, lower cost by avoiding monothematic mobile apps to access the enterprise systems. Fortunately today the technology exists to provide access to enterprise systems via instant messaging in a controlled and secured way.
CIOs today are facing a variety of challenges, instant messenging platforms being one of them. The ever growing requirements from the business and the users become more difficult to fulfill. While the core systems typically have a longer lifespan, customer interaction platforms are changing more frequently. In particular, the management of data becomes a key task in today’s IT environment. Let’s have a closer look at these topics.
IT typically optimizes systems for a single function such as supply chain, finance, business information and, last but not least, the customer centric systems. That is where the challenge of integration arises. The IT function is stuck with such issues like processes that are not end-to-end integrated or an application landscape that is not integrated and therefore leads to process breakages. All this has a real impact on an efficient way of working for the employees in a company. And, over all, it hinders companies to optimally perform in their markets.
Instant messaging platforms are conquering the communication
Today more than 3 billion people are privately using, on a daily basis, messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal to communicate with friends and family. The usage is increasingly penetrating businesses and for business purposes. In many regions of the world instant messaging has substituted other forms of communication such as email, SMS or even phone calls.
The reason for this is simple, instant messaging is just so easy and intuitive to use. It provides a more direct, faster and easier way of interaction and it fully integrates multimedia communication by including documents, pictures, movies or voice messages.
And because usage is so easy and intuitive, a de facto standard for communication is established by such instant messengers.
Messaging in the business environment
As ever more people are used to communicating with instant messengers, the same expectation towards ease of use is put upon company’s business systems. Some business tools have taken on chat functionalities to provide for such easier interaction. Examples are Microsoft Teams or Slack that focus on company internal communication with chat conversations. That for sure makes it easier for employees and teams to communicate but limits the conversation to the inside of the company.
Coming back to the CIO challenges I mentioned above, let us look at what this means in the business context:
- Is it hard to feed all your business systems with valuable data?
- Is it hard to make the customer communicate in a specific way you would like them to?
Many traditional IT systems are based on personal computers or laptops as a prime user interface. Via mobile apps they try to provide a mobile user interface. But often such apps do not provide nearly the same ease of use as instant messaging platforms do. Plus, there is always the hurdle of proper authentication. This is the prime reason that employees rather do not use the systems at all and have problems in updating the central enterprise systems.
The customers of any company are facing a similar situation. They would prefer to use the platforms they are used to and they use every day. But companies only offer toll free numbers, email addresses or apps. Call centers are not very popular, email is not as easy and direct as instant messaging and the download of apps is stalling on a global level.
People don’t want to manage the fragmentation or diversity of the multitude of apps with all the different passwords. The technical side is equally difficult as companies need to maintain all the various platforms, the operating systems, the connectivity, the security, and so on.
Isn’t that a lot of data that you normally miss in your enterprise systems – really valuable data that you should have in your backend systems for further analysis, for further follow ups, for better information of everybody involved?
Security and compliance
Instant messaging providers have taken quite a few security measures. The most important of those is end-to-end encryption. A feature that still is not a standard with e-mail communication. Furthermore, the encryption key is kept on each one’s mobile phone and cannot be accessed by any outside party. However, embracing instant messaging as a company under the GDPR laws is extremely difficult: too many items are lying outside of the company’s authority. The rulings lay in the hands of regulators and politicians, not only on a local or national scale but also on a global scale as for example the Transatlantic EU-US data privacy shield clearly shows. (Article reccomendation: Bye bye Privacy Shield)
Regardless of these facts, instant messengers are simply used by everybody within the company. They are pervasive in the lives of all users for both their personal and business use. Rules to forbid the usage for professional purposes are many times circumvented or ignored.
A CIO basically has two options: He can try to ignore it and continue to fight the fight to forbid it. Or he can try to tap into the business information on those parts of the chats that are relevant for the business and make it secure and compliant by transferring the information into the back-end systems. CIOs still have the need to get relevant business data into their business systems. And we all need to find the best ways to conquer this field of tension.