Messaging Apps in the Enterprise
Clear, consistent communication is vital for the productivity and growth of any organization. For years the primary method of communicating was via phone. Now, as technology allows us to collaborate and connect from virtually anywhere at any time, companies are forced to evaluate a number of communication tools, including many popular messaging apps available on mobile devices. From WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to iMessage and Google Hangouts, these apps bring IT teams to a crossroads between the pros of a more open approach and the potential perils of careless worker app use.

The challenge of balancing workplace productivity with effective IT management is certainly nothing new to today’s IT teams. But this continually blurring line between enterprise and consumer messaging apps is an interesting one. Many traditional consumer apps are making end-to-end encryption the default messaging standard, which can help provide one layer of protection for the enterprise. Yet, according to his commentary in a recent CIO article, Adam Preset, research director at Gartner, says this alone simply isn’t enough.

“The terms and conditions of consumer apps don’t favor enterprises, and, in the best case, information transmitted within those apps is owned by the individual,” he says. Absent central account provisioning, a critical enterprise feature, IT leaders are “dependent on individual chat-thread owners keeping track of who should be in a group and who should be ejected, which might mean that sensitive data is accessible to the wrong people.”

Therefore, here are a few steps your IT team can take to examine messaging apps in the enterprise and what to do about them:

  1. Gauge how often messaging apps are currently being used. This may involve a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, but any results are more valuable than operating on assumptions.
  2. Understand why employees use certain apps. Transitioning employees from popular consumer messaging apps to those built specifically for the enterprise may be easier than you think if interface familiarity is a bigger driver of use than functionality.
  3. Consider taking a tiered approach to app usage. Rather than simply banning consumer messaging apps one off, think about utilizing a suite of apps for various purposes with different security measures in place to reflect the tasks being executed within each app.
  4. Promote and encourage positive employee usage behaviors. It’s important the company take stands on acceptable use of such apps for non-critical, non-confidential communication, both internally and externally.

Ultimately, comprehensive mobile device usage policies (MDUP) will be the backbone for any provisions your IT team decides to put in place. Promoting best practices that mitigate the associated risk of consumer messaging apps in the enterprise can be extremely beneficial. When paired with consumer apps for lower-level communication and enterprise messaging apps specifically designed to protect core business interests (typically through features including include administrative controls, integration with data services, audit, archive and encryption tools, and security-policy enforcement) for more complex tasks, you can ensure your IT team is delivering anything but mixed messages about its commitment to data security.