Communication Solutions: Spoilt for choice

Communication Solutions: Spoilt for choice


More and more SMEs and large corporations are relying on Microsoft Teams or Slack so that their teams can exchange information via chats, calls and meetings. Or you can use WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal or Threema. Neither collaboration platforms nor consumer apps are suitable for a smooth, and above all secure, communication and information exchange between mobile workers and desk employees. […]

Our communication behavior has changed in the last five to ten years, and especially through Corona. We owe this to communication solutions that have developed rapidly in terms of technology. While the classic exchange of information via e-mail and telephone calls is gradually receding into the background, real-time collaboration via chat messages, video conferences and the sharing of digital content is playing an increasingly important role for fast, uncomplicated and comprehensive communication. However, with the multitude of different communication solutions, the question arises for companies as to which is the right choice. It is important to find a suitable solution that meets all employees as well as the compliance and security requirements of the company.

Instant messaging is not at the forefront of collaboration platforms

While Microsoft Teams and Slack strive for the best possible communication and collaboration, they leave out mobile workers. This can be seen in numerous functions that are optimized for desktop use. An example of this is threading. Messages cannot be quoted in order to respond directly to them. Instead, you have to open a reply thread under the message. While this makes follow-up easier in some discussions, it complicates communication overall: it takes longer to perform certain actions. Microsoft Teams and Slack can leverage their strengths for simultaneous document editing and file sharing – helpful features for desk staff. However, there are limited ways to share digital content on mobile devices. In addition, these collaboration platforms are part of larger packages. Thus, for example, one obtains

Microsoft Teams only together with Microsoft Office – which is not relevant for mobile outsourcing employees.

The privacy problem with WhatsApp and collaboration platforms made in USA

Mobile workers such as production staff, logistics staff, hospital staff and emergency personnel usually have neither a laptop nor an e-mail address. In order to be able to exchange ideas with colleagues directly, they often use their own mobile device and WhatsApp. The problem: WhatsApp is not suitable for a secure and compliant exchange of information in the business sector-especially not for companies with critical infrastructure and authorities with confidential information. This is illustrated not least by the upcoming change to the WhatsApp privacy policy. This allows users to use WhatsApp, in addition to their own data such as phone number, profile name and profile picture, also those of their contacts. In addition, the app stores usage and log information as well as time zone, language and location information. In principle, users transfer all rights to WhatsApp. But even with U.S. collaboration platforms designed for business use, privacy and security are not always guaranteed. Representatives of several supervisory authorities, including Ulrich Kelber, the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, and Maja Smoltczyk, the Berlin State Data Protection Commissioner, have issued recommendations and warnings regarding use. In addition, there is the tilted Privacy Shield, which allowed US companies to transfer data from EU users to the US for processing and storage-a clear contradiction of the GDPR.

Consumer App vs. Business Messaging App: the serious difference

For consumer apps, it is typical that they are managed by the user himself. They are not aimed at professional IT control and provide entry doors for a dangerous shadow IT. In contrast, a GDPR-compliant business messaging app is managed by an IT administrator via a corresponding portal. He can not only control the assignment of roles and rights, but also define communication guidelines and archive messages in an audit – proof manner. It also has the option to import users or groups directly from existing directories. At the same time, a business messaging app can be connected to the UEM system or the MDM environment. This ensures that users only access company data via authorized devices and that they do not get into unauthorized hands in the event of a device loss. A business messaging app can also be integrated into the existing IT ecosystem via open APIs. The advantage: Thanks to automated processes and accelerated workflows, productivity increases. From the user’s point of view, it must not be inferior to a consumer app in terms of usability. After all, he wants to communicate quickly, easily and intuitively. In addition to 1:1 chats, group chats and sharing digital content, a business messaging app offers numerous other functions that are specially prepared for business use: internal surveys, alerting functions, color-coded status messages for better prioritization and the like.

Rely on IT service providers for the right communication solution

SMEs in particular, but also corporations, rely on IT service providers who fully cover their product portfolio in the field of communication solutions. They recognize the differences in the individual needs of desk and mobile employees. Accordingly, you can propose, implement and maintain the right communication solution. For example, for companies such as hospitals or care services, where mobile employees are predominantly employed, it would be rather inconvenient to use Microsoft Teams as part of a Microsoft Office package. A solution specialized in instant messaging, such as a business messaging app, is more suitable in this deployment scenario. It also offers the advantage that individual adjustments can be made together with the IT service provider.

Conclusion: Solution lies in the best of breed approach

Even though the market for communication solutions is difficult to understand, consumer apps for internal communication should not be the tool of choice. Both collaboration platforms and business messaging apps have their advantages; the former especially for desk employees and the latter for mobile employees. The solution could be that companies use a best-of – breed approach to assemble and link multiple tools – such as APIs and plugins-so that there is maximum added value for all employees in terms of all-encompassing internal communication.

* Tobias Stepan is founder and Managing Director of Teamwire GmbH (, which specializes in secure and sovereign instant messaging for business, government and healthcare. Previously, he worked as a consultant on growth and restructuring projects for high-tech companies and built up the European business of the American IT start-up Servo until its exit to the Japanese Kii Corporation. He is committed to mobile digitization and a strong European IT ecosystem.

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