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The modern workforce is changing, with Millennials and iGen now forming nearly 50% of the working population and soon to be the majority, there is greater demand for people to work the way they live. Consumer chat applications like WhatsApp are ubiquitous, easy to use, and free. They are a part of our culture today, offering instant communications integrated deeply our smartphones including things such as Contacts and other social media platforms.

Business users have begun to use consumer chat applications as a real time communications tool to do their jobs and organisation want better ways to inform their employees in the field about company announcements and changes in the business.

This means that selection of collaboration tool is now a strategic and critical business choice. It does, however, mean that using consumer platforms is not the right choice.

What’s Up with WhatsApp?

WhatsApp has 1.5 billion people worldwide, it is perceived to be secure because of end-to-end encryption (which means that only the messenger and the individual recipient or group can see text messages, photos and videos). It is also familiar and easy to use.Consider Workplace as an effective collaboration tool

However, the issues start when the behavioural aspects to security are considered. Consumer applications cannot guarantee that conversations or files exchanged are confidential. Conversations in consumer applications like WhatsApp are not erased, they just become hidden and archived in the database of the app (including status updates). This poses a significant and material risk to organisations.

Companies have things they want or need to keep confidential. These could be regulatory issues, SEBI requirements, or patient confidentiality in the case of healthcare. However, that has not stopped Shadow IT to form in collaboration platforms either because IT departments have not given them the tools with an effective user experience or they simply don’t have an alternative.

A good example is taken from a study of 2,107 doctors across five hospital sites showed that a third of doctors and nurses use WhatsApp and other messaging apps to send clinical information, despite NHS warnings about data privacy risks.

Earlier this year, tyre manufacturer Continental, prohibited its 240,000 employees from using WhatsApp in order to comply with GDPR rules, citing concerns around the storage of users’ WhatsApp contacts.

Whilst most businesses are more pragmatic in their approach, acknowledging that such decisions are often hard to enforce.

Whilst WhatsApp does have encryption mechanisms; there's not enough control, governance, visibility and reassurances to satisfy the enterprise need. Why? Simply because WhatsApp is not an enterprise service, but that's the problem.

Allowing employees to use platforms that are unmanaged or not able to monitored opens the door for people to breach employer guidelines by giving offence to the recipient of a message, causing reputational damage to an employer or releasing confidential information. Other examples where the platform is limited is that Group Admins will not necessarily know they must remove employee if an employee leaves the company or if a new employee joins a group, they will not see previous conversations so value is degraded.

There are alternatives that mitigate these risks whilst delivering a strong user experience. One of Facebook’s brands, Workplace, is a great example (indeed it is clear that Facebooks are investing in Workplace as the Enterprise collaboration tool over its other products).

Workplace can also mitigate a number of the technical and behavioural security risks by ensuring that subscribed organisations remain as the Data Controller and allows additional security hardening such as Mobile Device Management, Single Sign On and Data Loss Prevention. Fundamentally, behavioural security risks can only be realistically reduced through corporate policies and staff training.

What’s Next?

It is clear that the trend in ways of working is accelerating through the mobile-first stage to the mobile-only workforce. Collaboration platforms are here to stay as a "must have" business tool that improves workplace communication and productivity. It is therefore logical that CXOs are looking at deploying a secure, manageable collaboration platform across their organisation. As mentioned previously, alternatives exist but whatever your selection, it must have four key features:

  1. Simple/ easy to use. If users need to be structured training like many legacy enterprise tools, you will not achieve adoption and the benefits are lost before you start. It should be intuitive and feel like a consumer app.
  2. Compliance. The tool must be able to comply with regulatory and compliance requirements either natively or with add-ons, then users can access company data safely and securely.
  3. Control. The platform should make sure that you are in control of your data and how and to whom you can distribute it to, all the while doing it seamlessly.
  4. Integration. No stateful application is an island. It is imperative that your collaboration tool can integrate with document storage, HR systems, CRM, etc. to become the glue where work can get done.


Consumer apps are not the tools that give the control and reassurance to organisations that they can build collaboration whilst mitigating the data control and management risks.

Organisations that want to work in modern ways should use enterprise grade collaboration tools with all of the integrations to stateful applications built in natively whilst retaining control of their data.

If you would like to know more about an enterprise collaboration tool that matches these requirements, get in touch to book a demo.


Collaboration Digital Workplace

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