Millennials love to chat. Their personal lives rotate around messaging and instant gratification. From getting their pals’ views on a new t-shirt they are thinking of buying to sharing their New Year’s resolutions publicly so as to make themselves more accountable, Gen Z, which comprises the majority of the workforce today, lives an instant and synchronous life, one that is built on the foundations of consumerism.
It is only natural that people’s preferences at work mirror those of their personal lives. And we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the way people work. The asynchronous nature of email makes it one of the most hated forms of office communication today. Anyone who has ever tried to ask a question, make a suggestion, or request an approval through email will understand the anxiety and subsequent loss in productivity caused by an excessive dependence on email.
Unfortunately, email is still the most-relied upon medium of communication, and it’s not like we can get anything done without communicating. This brings us to the bigger underlying problem plaguing enterprises today, that of suboptimal collaboration. Collaboration is no longer the nice-to-have, it is the key behavior that gets the work done. The tools and software being used today need to mimic this behavioral trend and supplement faster, better, and more efficient collaboration. The time has come for the enterprise software industry to embrace the change and create consumer-oriented experiences to replace mundane tasks and workflows.
Popular communication platforms like Slack, Hipchat, and the new Microsoft Teams that facilitate instant messaging in the workplace have a pivotal role to play in the future of our workplaces. By reducing the threshold to starting a conversation or voicing a concern, these platforms are democratizing information in workplaces. They help inculcate ideas and values that are near and dear to millennials. These platforms are taking the good ol’ corporate open-door policy to the next level. By keeping conversations and discussions synchronous, the workforce is working in a way it loves to. Just as the early innovation in enterprise software liberated people from the inconvenience of paperwork, the new enterprise tools are aimed at enabling a more potent collaboration experience.
Apart from the general goodness that comes with an open communication system, these platforms provide the breeding grounds for integrations and automation. Think of these platforms as powerful IFTTTs for enterprises where you can subscribe to alerts, create workflows, push information to other systems, and basically create powerful and effective systems that aid in improving the collective productivity of a team.
A new wave of enterprise tools and utilities is being built, designed for a messaging interface and incorporating the very same principles that power the personal lives of millennials.
This includes relieving everything from management of cumbersome expense tracking to keeping tabs on business intelligence and accounting to keeping employees engaged and involved.
Almost every aspect of the workday is being adapted to run on a messaging framework that allows people to achieve more by doing less. These tools have two distinct advantages. First is their capability to leverage conversational interfaces, which positions them uniquely to appeal to a younger target group.
Second is machine learning, which has made tremendous strides in the recent past. With open platforms like TensorFlow and datasets like MS Marco, it has become possible for small to mid-sized software vendors to leverage this tech with relative ease to create systems that talk to people and that understand work contexts based on past interactions. With some nifty product enhancements, it is relatively easy to deploy a degree of AI in the enterprise by focusing on a specific problem rather than trying to create a functional AI for consumers that aims to do everything for them.
For enterprise vendors, the advantages of these platforms from an economic standpoint is also noteworthy. In the enterprise world, where the costs of acquiring a customer are so high, being able to leverage a distribution network of hundreds of thousands of enterprise customers is an opportunity worth going after. Finally, as platforms evolve, efficient revenue sharing models will arrive that will enable vendors to add to their bottom line and, in the process, make platforms more lucrative for end users.
Long story short, if you are an enterprise vendor without a messaging platform strategy for 2017, you’re going to miss out.