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Workplace Texting: Can it Replace Email?

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Workplace Texting: Can it Replace Email?

March 31, 2015
By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

Despite the typical image of texting in the workplace (distracted, bored office workers sending short but constant messages to BFFs and love interests), it turns out that mobile’s biggest messaging success story has evolved into a tool for productivity. The question is, where does it go from here?

That’s according to a recent TigerText survey, which found that 72 percent of employees use texting as a workplace messaging tool. Of that number, 71 percent text colleagues, while 20 percent use it to keep in touch with customers and 15 percent do so with partners.

Clearly, there are some obvious use cases where business texting makes more than good sense. But does it make enough sense to become a viable alternative to email? Let’s consider the evidence.

Anyone who has attended a trade show in the last couple of years is familiar with how crucial texting can be to locating colleagues and business partners, and finding out where you’re supposed to be and when. The same is true of in-field communications. Be it outside sales or customer service technicians, on-the-go coordination is a lot simpler via SMS.

Also, as with personal communications, texting tends to get results faster. Maybe because it’s not yet as ubiquitous as email for organizational communications, or maybe because most smartphones let you know the moment a message arrives, but response times are impressive—95 percent of replies are sent within 60 seconds of receiving the initial message, TigerText said. That’s ten times faster than email.

Texting is also free of email’s nastiest characteristics, like spam, incredibly cluttered inboxes and wide susceptibility to hacking and inappropriate cc’ing and bcc’ing.

In the same vein, a rise in secure options for messaging is expanding the relevance of SMS, enabling it to function as a private channel between executives and a safe tool for BYOD environments. If truly secured, it also represents a compliant way for healthcare staff to discuss patient records and status, for financial services firms to discuss accounts with clients, and for lawyers and law enforcement to discuss cases and crimes, with clients and amongst each other. Information stays private and impermanent.

Of course, there’s also a flip side to this last point: namely, that information stays private and impermanent. In many business scenario cases, it’s necessary to keep an electronic equivalent of a paper trail—and this is something that email excels at.

Email is simple to store/archive, search, file-tag (News - Alert) and move around. Texting on the other hand doesn’t lend itself to a prioritization or a filing scheme, and it’s almost impossible to group messages about similar topics together. Search interfaces for text messages are similarly lackluster.

Related to this, and perhaps on a more pedestrian but nonetheless relevant note, when someone is trying to CYA, text conversations are probably not the best way to get a conversation on record for the higher-ups.

And, there are other downsides and concerns with using SMS as a primary collaboration method, starting with the fact that attaching documents from enterprise networks is no simple task without a comprehensive unified communications platform. And, on the security front, it should be noted that there are plenty of examples of supposedly secure mechanisms being compromised by hackers, and encryption algorithms are rarely airtight.

TigerText CEO Brad Brooks (News - Alert) admits that enterprises are wrestling with some of the details.

“Some of our most successful deployments have been driven by the employees who recognize that this is an incredible opportunity to leverage these smart devices that everyone’s carrying – they tend to be more visionary employees,” he told Enterprise Apps Tech back in December. “By the same token you do have certain IT enterprise administrators...trying to figure out how to address the security issue.”

There’s no doubt that used in the right context, SMS is and will continue to be an important communications channel for business. But can it replace email or expand its role beyond quick messaging? That’s an evolution that remains to be seen.


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