Group chat isn’t the panacea for those wanting to replace email

Chat, Chat, Chat…Short bursts of information between two or more people has become all the rage. Like instant messaging a decade ago, group chat is the current communication platform de jour. You’ve heard the names, Slack, WeChat, Hipchat, Redbooth, Facebook at Work, Yammer and many others.

If you are considering a communication and collaboration solution you need to first ask three basic questions.

1. What is your ambition? What are you trying to change or accomplish in your organization?

2. Do you want a one “trick” simple solution that addresses one aspect of workflow, workplace communication or collaboration; or a multi-function solution?

3. How important is a mobile-centric platform? Is mobile part of your workplace roadmap and employee engagement?

This is just step one. While group chat is generating noise, but are you signing up for the game changer you have been led to believe?

The very nature of the word chat says short term, disposable…informal communication. Many believe chat is the email replacement tool. Moving to a group chat solution is not the answer even if email has grown to be used for more than basic electronic communication.
How we communicate has a direct influence on how we work. Are disconnected and informal business tools the right ones to address complex problems?

Effective communication is critical for the success of any organization. One major challenge is the fixing or correcting of workplace errors because of poor communication. Using a chat tool, that perpetuates an informal communication style, will not address the challenge of moving today’s information into tomorrow’s corporate knowledge.

Don’t listen to us. Listen to an unbiased review of group chat from Jason Fried, Founder & CEO at Basecamp. Co-author of Getting Real, Remote, and NYT Bestseller REWORK. In his March 2016 manifesto – “Is group chat making you sweat?” he describes the FOUR positives and 17 negatives with simple group chat solutions.

According to Jason….

“…group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense.”
“…the method and manner in which you choose to communicate has a major influence on how people FEEL at work. Frazzled, exhausted and anxious? Or calm, cool and collected?”

Jason is someone who has been at the forefront of enterprise group chat for over a decade. Chat isn’t bad, it just isn’t the pancea. Check out this video where we describe in detail Jason’s positives and negatives of group chat. Vmoso vs Group Chat

vmoso - and group chat

Chat isn’t bad.

If all you want is a persistent chat tool, you can “PAY” for any of the apps discussed or use a free instant chat platform like skype.

What is group chat good for?

It’s fast and immediate; if your team or group needs to discuss and hash out something quickly…chat will do the trick. It is a lot easier for multiple people to read, respond and discuss in a chat setting than clogging up an email in-box.
There is a sense of urgency and it is one way to circulate information to a large audience.
Chat is fun and collegial, but if ordering an Uber or a pizza while discussing a $50 million dollar business deal with the team is mission critical, then Slack is right for your company.
Group chat also provides a collaborative platform to build inclusion and create a sense of belonging. This helps build a powerful organizational culture. This is the ultimate goal, but group chat falls short in the long run.

Where chat fails –

But, if group chat is the primary method of communication across your enterprise you are not focused on the big picture.

Active or passive participation in group-chat can be exhausting. Unlike overloaded email in-boxes that require time set aside to scan, read and answer emails, group chat creates a feeling that you always need to be following.

If your team is communicating solely in group chat, the same problems with email are magnified but only cosmetically different. Instead of scanning email multiple times a day to make sure nothing important falls by the wayside, group chat creates the always on need to monitor.

One-line communication is worse that long-form email and more difficult to conduct in-depth discussions. The nature of business is to solve big problems, over time, with details. Big picture communication requires conversation not disconnected monosyllabic comments one line at a time.

Group chat is nothing more than comments piled up one after another. There is no real linkage of one thought to another. Instead of a pyramid being built, a giant landfill emerges.

Accessing knowledge or finding information is challenging. With most chat tools, what happens three weeks in and you need to go back and review an important conversation from two weeks ago; what do you do? That was 375 scrolls earlier. The upward escalator of fragmented pieces of information has reached the 100th floor. After three hours of searching you find what you wanted, but where is the context? Remember, chat, is an endless stream of short comments.

Collaboration’s value is in the discussion, but a discussion that arrives at a collective conclusion with action items and deliverables. Chat does not provide the context and platform to easily make this happen.

The basic concept of group chat is a positive step forward in powering a collaborative workplace culture, but it is only a small step.

What’s missing?

• A universal inbox
• A single source of truth
• No organizational structure to information
• No personal structure
• Inability to integrate outside of the team or specific channel created
• No file versioning so everyone in the channel are actually working on the most current document version
• No analytics
• Poor integration with email. There will always be late adopters who still rely on email to communicate.

Do you think these are important?

You’re ready to make changes in your organization and improve productivity. Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Take your time to figure out what problems you want to solve before implementing a solution that stops far short of where you want to go.

If you are leaning towards group chat listen to what a 10 year veteran of group chat has to say. You might be surprised by what you hear. Check out a video on group chat.