In today’s workplace, email alone just doesn’t cut it. Given the sheer volume of emails that workers receive, it can take hours or days before people respond to an email. At the same time, the rise of remote work means that colleagues don’t always sit across from each other anymore. Communication and collaboration must keep up with these changing times, and team messaging is here to help.
Team messaging apps offer workers a single place where employees and groups can talk, manage projects, and collaborate with coworkers in real-time. Similar to messaging apps like AOL from the 2000s, they allow teams to send instant messages at any time.
But it goes much further than simple messaging. Here are some attributes of what to look for:
1. Messaging in the cloud
Modern workers aren’t tethered to their office desks, so they rely on cloud-based solutions to get their jobs done, whether they’re working remotely, flexibly, or checking their messages beyond the traditional 9-5 work hours. Therefore, workers rely on cloud-based messaging solutions to ensure they can access their messages anytime, on any connected device. Users can seamlessly switch from a conversation on their desktop to their phone and still access the same messages, files, conferences, and calls.
The handiest team messaging apps are designed to work well on any device, including separate mobile apps and desktop apps for various operating systems. This ensures employees can maintain consistent communication and keep productivity high from no matter where they are working.
2. Organizing conversations into teams
Team messaging apps help organize messages into individual conversations, group messages, and different topic threads. Organizations can create a mass-thread for corporate updates, departmental channels, and project-related groups. Some organizations even create fun threads to boost employee morale, for jokes, life updates, or interesting news. For example, an organization might create a thread for the office dog owners to talk about all things pet parenthood.
3. More than just messaging
A team messaging app that incorporates other modes of communication facilitates deeper conversations that go beyond the written word. When a team messaging app also incorporates things like video conferencing and cloud phone, it’s referred to as a unified communication (UC) platform. This multi-functionality allows employees to seamlessly switch between different modes of communication with a single click.
Team messaging lays the groundwork for further collaboration. For example, an employee might share a file in the group thread and ask for feedback. Or, after an in-app conversation about a potential project roadblock, a leader might invite the team to a video conference to brainstorm solutions. While team messaging apps often start the conversations, messages alone don’t foster robust collaboration.
4. Third-party integrations
A team messaging solution that includes third-party software integrations makes employees more productive. Software integrations mean that a messaging app can work alongside a third-party app or business tool. For example, an employee could access their Google Calendar from inside their messaging app.
Software integrations reduce the number of applications that users have to open to complete tasks, combatting app overload. Studies show that the average employee toggles up to 10 different applications every hour, which adds unnecessary frustration to their workflows. Each time they have to switch to a new app, they lose focus and time, thus convoluting their work. Being able to access messages from within other apps means they no longer have to toggle.
Software integrations also allow organizations to customize their workflows by adding third-party business tools that enhance their workflow. For example, a marketing team might want a Salesforce integration, but a marketing company might prefer an integration with a live Twitter feed.
Some of the most popular integrations include: Google Chrome, Google G-Suite, Salesforce, Zendesk, Microsoft 365, and Canvas. These integrations make it possible for employees to access app data while on the team messaging app platform, and messages while on the third-party platforms.
5. Share files
The most effective team messaging solutions help organizations increase productive collaboration with additional features to promote engagement. Features like file sharing enable team members to share edits and feedback in real-time on any device. Organizations should look for solutions that allow users to share files, documents, images, and videos so users don’t have to dig through their cluttered email inbox to find information.
6. Show presence status
Presence refers to the status of a colleague as indicated next to their names in a team messaging app. Presence shows whether someone is online, offline, in a meeting, on a call, or marked do-not-disturb. This status helps employees make smarter decisions about who they contact and when.
7. Support external contacts
Instant messaging doesn’t just benefit employee-employee conversations. It’s more productive for vendor and client conversations too. This means anyone who works with an organization in some capacity that isn’t a full-time employee, like vendors, clients, freelancers, and consultants.
A team messaging platform should offer organizations the ability to add these outside contacts to a channel without giving them access to every internal channel. If an organization contracts a freelance writer to contribute blog posts, it’s more productive for them to chat with the content manager on an app than to send emails or pick up the phone.
The same goes for vendors or clients. They need channels of communication with the purchasing department or sales team. A team messaging app should allow teams to easily add external users and assign restrictions and permissions.
8. Advanced search functions
Whether it’s searching for an old document, link, or past conversation, employees need rich search functions so digging through archives doesn’t turn into a time-consuming task.
While most team messaging platforms offer the ability to search by keyword, employees can end up wasting hours searching for a single piece of text. In order to avoid wasting time on search, a team messaging app should include the option to search by date ranges, images, videos, files, or links.
The bottom line
Choosing the right team messaging solution can greatly impact how your teams communicate and collaborate. For remote workers, flexible teams, and distributed offices, digital tools help collaboration online mimic in-person workflows. The best tools promote productivity with features that enable more communication with less applications.
The RingCentral app combines team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single app, allowing users to collaborate from anywhere, using any mode, and on any device. With a comprehensive gallery of out-of-the-box business apps, it not only gives teams full control of their communications, but also everything they need to work productively.
Learn more about team messaging and unified communications in the post, “Unified Communications: 6 Advantages of a Single App for Message, Video, and Phone.”
Originally published Jul 27, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023