Despite The Rise Of Enterprise Social Networks, SMS Is Still A Major Enterprise Communciations Medium


Ben Kepes, Contributor

January 20, 2014

Over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of so-called Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) – communication platforms and tools that enable enterprises to communicate on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis, quickly and easily. Most of the big names are playing in the space, either with an embedded product (a la’s Chatter) or with a third party tool (such as Yammer (now owned by Microsoft) or Tibbr from Tibco). You’d think that with all of these lightweight communications systems in existence, the more traditional communication approaches would go the way of the dodo.

That wouldn’t seem to be the case if a recent survey by HeyWire is to be believed. The company (who, you guessed it, delivers an SMS-like messaging service that replaces Instant Messaging and voicemail without being tied to a particular device) recently reported on a survey that highlighted some interesting results. HeyWire essentially sends and receives multimedia messages across computers, tablets and smartphones both within and outside of organizations – so enterprise communications is very much their bread and butter.

Anyway, HeyWire surveyed 500 business people and looked at how their communication methods have changed over time and specifically how they’re using SMS. Apparently 62% of respondents feel a need to separate business-related and personal text messages but still want to maintain an SMS-like paradigm. That’s an interesting challenge for central IT as it means they need to ensure security, auditability and control, while maintaining at least the appearance of a tool which doesn’t look and work like a traditional centralized IT delivered solution.

The high-level findings from the survey were as follows:

  • 67 percent are using text messaging for business-related communications
  • More than 59 percent use their personal mobile phones frequently for business-related communications
  • 73 percent text message with internal co-workers, while 51 percent use text to communicate with external contacts, including customers, prospects and partners
  • 62 percent added that they wanted to separate their business text messages from their personal text messages
  • 85 percent are currently using an insecure consumer service (Facebook chat, iMessage, Gchat, WhatsApp, etc.) for business-related communications

It’s an interesting group of findings and speaks to the need for enterprises to find solutions that enable both internal and external communications. While ESN tools such as Tibbr and Chatter are great for generally static teams, they’re not so hot when it comes to straddling fixed and ad-hoc communication situations.

There is certainly a need for a tool that combines the best of both worlds – the ad-hoc, open, multi-platform aspects of SMS, along with the security and compliance that enterprises need. Add to this the need for a tool which covers both mobile and desktop and you have an interesting set of problems.

This is just the problem that HeyWire is looking to solve – it morphed from a primarily consumer-focused tool which garnered a respectable if not stellar five million downloads and moved onto an enterprise-focused vendor delivering security, encryption and full auditing of communications. It sells its product via a mix of channels – both white labeled to third parties but also as a series of exposed APIs that can be built into third party software products – as such it could be the ESN tool that a CRM vendor (for example) could integrate to provide a solution allowing internal and external communications tied into the CRM system.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the jury is out about what the ultimate ESN will look like – whether it is a fabric overlay or an embedded service – it will be interesting to see how HeyWire fares in the increasingly busy ESN space.

Connect with Ben on Twitter @benkepes | LinkedIn AngelList

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