The goal for almost all projects and teams is to have a creative, collaborative and highly communicative environment. However, in many cases this isn’t always possible because of the tools available to them.
Mention chat tools in the business world and it’s not surprising that some people have an ambivalent view of them. It’s easy to fall into a disciplinarian mindset and see only the mobile device versions of family, public, popular chat apps and associate them with timewasting. But this would overlook their creative and collaborative potential.
There’s plenty of evidence to say that chat makes for unusually cohesive, fast-moving and almost intimidatingly productive teams, no matter the size of business. It’s also very lightweight. For the smaller businesses you don’t need a lot of high-tech servers or heavyweight feature-sets to realise value from chat.
Support workers have been showing the way here for more than a decade, by simply using a WordPad document on the remote PC they are troubleshooting, to leave a breadcrumb trail of questions and answers, fixes and clarifications for the distant user to see what they have done, and how they have done it.
Using chat within your business
The right solution – no matter who makes it – is to bring chat inside the boundary. You are used to feeling that information on your company’s PCs and servers is yours, broadly off-limits to competitors, customers and the public. This is the privacy boundary, and Microsoft Teams lives within the same security provisions you have in place for your data. It’s also not separated out to a mobile-only client – no isolated private WhatsApp or Snapchat here.
In fact, the Teams screen space is the presentation method for the office apps you’re using. This means that documents have a production lifecycle: private at the very start, then brought into Teams for group chat-based review, and finally published to the intended recipients. And chats started in Teams don’t disappear once they are closed, as in Sync.
That last step is vital to understand, because although Teams mixes up several different channels of communication to speed up the group-edit cycle, the outcome is a standard, readable Office document. There’s no need to manage the group list to invite the recipient in from outside, or have separate groups with separate security profiles.
Not all chat is bad
There is no more divisive technology, when it comes to the gulf that separates home users from office workers, than the chat room. But before the negativity of the headline-grabbing stories fuels your wariness, let’s remember these are salacious stories rather than the norm.
The London money market, LIBOR, rate-fixing scandal was facilitated by standard consumer chat services, with dealers colluding by staying logged-in on their smartphones. These are all minority interest group activities, but some see these mass-media histories of scamming, abuse and downright criminality as the basis for damning the entire sector.
There are other practical advantages to Teams being inside the software and security cordon, such as the chat itself being a recorded business communication.
“Who said what to whom and when” is a vital part of many business practices, especially those that are tightly regulated. Losing all that to a public chat environment is a double-edged sword – the LIBOR fixing posse were ready to transact over public chat exactly because they thought it wasn’t kept, and they were then later caught because one of their number had been keeping his own logs.