Popular consumer-facing technology often shows up in the workplace. In the fact, the whole BYOD movement was driven by the enormous popularity of consumer technologies like the iPhone and Dropbox.
In terms of enterprise communication tools, though, we’re still stuck with tools like Office 365 or newer products like Slack, right? Actually, no. It’s not Slack or Microsoft Teams or even Workplace by Facebook. And it isn’t Skype, Webex Teams or LINE.
A recent CCS Insights survey of employees in the US and Western Europe found some results that may surprise many executives – especially those in the US. Today, WhatsApp has jumped past Microsoft Office 365 as the world’s most-used mobile app in the workplace.
If you’re familiar with group chats and texting, you’ll be familiar with WhatsApp’s basic functionality. Having added 500 million new users over the last two years, the company that Facebook paid $19 billion for back in 2014 now has over 2 billion users worldwide. Two billion! To put that into perspective, compare that with Facebook’s other properties – Facebook itself has roughly 2.5 billion users while Instagram has approximately 1 billion users.
What is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is an application used most commonly on smartphones – although it’s also got a desktop web version that’s also widely used. On smartphones the app relies on a cellular or Wi-Fi connection for messaging and voice calling to other people who have the app. This can be done to individuals or groups, and makes it easy for families to stay in touch on a single thread. The app lets users make calls, and send and receive messages, documents, images and even videos, all for free without any fees or subscriptions required. And because it can use Wi-Fi, it doesn’t need to eat into a phone plan’s minutes or data allotment.
Growth in the enterprise
With all these features and ease of use, it’s no surprise that it’s becoming so popular in the enterprise, too. Although the app has proven less popular in the US, where most phone plans have unlimited calling and data, companies with international employees are finding that it’s making inroads as a communication and collaboration tool.
NetMotion itself is a good example of the kind of business in which WhatsApp makes a lot of sense. With more than half of our employees being based overseas in Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia, employees only require their colleagues’ phone numbers in order to communicate without worrying about charges and fees. They can also create and then delete specific groups to help facilitate work. This was on full display during our recent Sales Kick Off meeting in Austin, Texas, where close to 90 employees relied on WhatsApp to arrange team meetings, share ideas and stay connected.
In addition to being used internally, WhatsApp has also made inroads as a customer support and marketing tool, making it possible for brands to stay engaged with customers in new and often unique ways.
Love, hate relationship
So, the question for enterprises is, do they embrace and encourage the spread of tools like WhatsApp, which are much harder to monitor and control from an IT perspective. Or do they try to limit or even block its use – particularly on company-owned devices? Security is obviously an important consideration, as is compliance with regulations and record-keeping. I have a feeling that WhatsApp will continue to grow in the enterprise setting, particularly as a customer support and engagement tool. But even if it’s just a fad, the more important takeaway is that people gravitate towards apps that are convenient, easy to use and ubiquitous. It’s a great lesson for any IT team as they evaluate and start to roll out any new tools to their employees.