Should Persistent Chat Be Part of Your Unified Communications Strategy?


Nik Djurovic, CEO of Digital Dot explains how Persistent chat platforms can be a viable business option. But business leaders should consider the merits and productivity pitfalls before deploying it as part of the Unified Communications (UC) strategy.

As things stand, none of the existing means of communication are going away anytime soon. Both voice and messaging persist as fundamentally different communication options that can be used effectively, and the same applies to digital age solutions such as chat platforms. The degree to which each business uses each of these options mostly depends on how well the advantages of each can cater to their needs – and how easily the inherent limitations and pitfalls can be tackled.

Indeed, persistent chat in business has emerged as a viable option because it, too, has merit. Its role in business should absolutely be taken into account; seen as a natural evolution of messaging by many, it does offer a unique utility that’s clearly different from both voice and non-persistent messaging and email. It does, however, come with distinct productivity pitfalls as well, not unlike its spiritual predecessor, which should also be tackled effectively. With both in mind, let us try to explore the subject.

What Persistent Chat Is and How It Can Be Used

As a means of communication, persistent chat is nothing new. At its core, it’s the simple concept of allowing the user to create isolated, often topic-based discussion rooms that persist over time. Such earlier, commercially successful or renowned persistent chat platforms as Microsoft Chat and mIRC have existed since 1995-1996, and some have continued to evolve to this day. Some have indeed been discontinued since, such as MSN Messenger (later Windows Live Messenger), but only to be succeeded by functionally similar platforms by the same companies, such as Skype.

Over the years, a plethora of new persistent chat tools and platforms have emerged in response to different consumer needs. From Facebook Messenger for social media users and Discord for gamer communities to Google Classroom for education groups and Slack for project colleagues, there is no shortage of specialized persistent chat options. Some of them specifically cater to businesses, such as Skype for BusinessOpens a new window , because synchronous, persistent communication is an asset that professionals can use no less than any of the aforementioned groups.

Learn More: Top 10 Unified Communication as-a-Service Companies and Providers in 2020Opens a new window

Disadvantages and Risks of Persistent Chat in Business

As with most technological advancements and innovations, one’s first response might likely be to view persistent chat favorably and embrace it with little scrutiny. It may thus be wise to begin with its inherent disadvantages instead, pinpointing the potential pitfalls any business may best want to avoid.

1. Reduced Productivity

While such platforms may not intentionally do so, they can facilitate distractions far better than older forms of communication – such as telephony. Their persistent nature presents longer-lasting chances for off-topic discussions, and their file-sharing capabilities allow for off-topic materials, such as GIFs and memes, to be shared.

In most circumstances, a company that would resort to persistent chat platforms will likely intend to coordinate remote workers – colleagues that do not adhere to normal office schedules, in other words. When physical proximity would have lunch or coffee break jokes and personal discussions last just long enough, remote, persistent chat can prolong them to the point where they can derail a chat room’s purpose. Thus, such platforms can undoubtedly assist with socializing and team bonding, but they also often run the risk of being overused or misused, reducing productivity.

2. Team Management Challenges

As an extension of the above, to a degree, managing a team across persistent chat platforms can also present unique challenges for the same reasons. As business-oriented as such platforms may appear, they still offer the same capabilities as the aforementioned non-business platforms, thus running the risk of being misused.

Such platforms often feel too similar to texting or personal chat platforms, eliciting similar behaviors from the users. Rooting out such counterproductive practices may be enough of a challenge for team leaders by itself, but it becomes even more complicated when they are actually desirable in other contexts. Remote teams may be encouraged to engage in bonding activities over the very same platforms when off the clock, in an effort to increase team cohesion and productivity, but balancing the two and establishing clear boundaries between them at once is a monumental task.

Learn More: How Robust Communication Infrastructure Impacted the Adoption of UCC SolutionsOpens a new window

Advantages of Persistent Chat for Business

While the above risks, among others, will inevitably arise, persistent chat in business also comes with very notable advantages. There are indeed reasons why businesses choose to use them, and why the market has identified incentives to cater to them.

1. Persistence and Accessibility

The most distinct advantage of such platforms is given away by their definition alone; they are persistent. This ensures that chat rooms are always accessible and that the information within them persists and is not lost in email clutter or undocumented discussions. This is an invaluable asset when framed properly, as studies have shownOpens a new window .

Such consolidated sources of information can massively increase productivity, assuming that chat rooms are not derailed; answers to frequently asked questions can be pinned for visibility, media attachment options can enhance discourse quality, and the search function can lead the inquiring team members to the information they seek. It is far easier to alleviate concerns over sudden developments or past practices in such an environment, where individual members’ unavailability may not hamper a team’s workflow.

2. Versatility

The aforementioned tools and functions also offer noteworthy versatility; where persistence can guarantee access to information, versatility can offer different forms of information and efficient organization among them.

Chat rooms are persistent by nature, but they can be equally expendable if a team leader so wishes. Thus, one can establish temporary chat rooms for temporary functions such as socialization, and only maintain work-related ones. One can establish read-only chat rooms for guidelines and documentation, or manage chat rooms specifically designed for recurring activities such as weekly ask-the-expert and Q&A rooms. Bulletin boards can be used for evolving topics, and any external resources such as surveys and forms can be integrated where appropriate. It is thus a far more versatile tool for coordinating a team than such means as legacy telephony, and arguably more future-proof at that.

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