hand of cards showing an Ace and King
Email remains the king of enterprise communication in spite of the growth of chat apps. PHOTO: Michał Parzuchowski

Microsoft Teams may still rattle the market, according to new research from Spiceworks.

According to the 488 IT pros who participated in a  Spiceworks survey last month, Teams will be the second most popular chat app after Skype for Business by the end of 2018 — surpassing Slack and Google Hangouts.

But Email Remains King

Austin-based Spiceworks is a vertical network that some six million IT professionals and 3,000 technology vendors use to connect with each other.

The Spiceworks report also indicates email will remain the leader of enterprise communication for at least the next five years despite the rise of collaboration tools and chat apps

The report was compiled by Spiceworks IT analyst Peter Tsai, based on a survey of respondents in North America and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) working at companies of all sizes.

Tsai said business chat app use are likely to explode. “Overall, the data shows that companies are open to adopting business chat apps, and that usage will continue to increase over time. As well as that, IT professionals and organizations clearly see the value of business chat services as a communication tool that can supplement email and increase productivity,” Tsai told CMSWire.

Email vs. Chat Apps

Almost all of those questioned use or are familiar with Skype for Business and Google Hangouts.

That said, the landscape is changing and customizable team-orientated chat apps like Slack and HipChat are starting to disrupt the market forcing the big tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook to come up with similar tools

“In the last year, the success of business chat apps like Slack has inspired big tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook to develop similar offerings, which validates the usefulness of these tools,” Tsai said. “The results also show IT professionals clearly respect smaller players like Slack, recognizing their product for its innovative features, user-friendliness, and compatibility with other software."

Far from replacing email, chap apps are likely to work in tandem with them. There is no conflict, Tsai said, explaining, “While IT professionals believe collaboration, tools are useful, the majority don’t think it can replace email within the next 3-5 years. Most companies are using business chat apps to supplement email instead of replacing it."

“Chat apps are great for real-time communications between individual employees or with larger teams. Additionally, these new apps make it easier to share files and keep everyone in the loop without getting dropped from threads. However, companies have been using email for decades and chat apps aren’t necessarily better for all forms of communications.”

Top Chat Apps

When asked to rank chat apps across different attributes including security, reliability and innovation professionals tended to put Slack and Skype for Business at the top in most areas.

Slack took the top spot when it came to innovation as well as being tops in user experience and compatibility with other apps. Google Hangouts was seen to be the most cost effective, and second behind Slack in terms of user experience.

Most enterprises are not concerned about security around chat apps. In fact, less than one third of IT pros are concerned about business chat apps introducing security risks.

“In terms of security, less than one third of IT professionals surveyed are concerned about business chat apps introducing security risks. However, basic security best practices still need to be followed when using these tools. For example, nearly 60 percent of IT professionals believe sensitive files/information should not be shared via group chat apps,” Tsai said.

However, nearly 60 percent of IT pros believe sensitive files/information should not be shared via group chat apps. In other words, IT pros aren’t overly concerned about the security risks if their employees use chat services wisely.

One final trend worth noting is that the adoption of these apps is strongest in medium-sized enterprises of 500 workers and up. Tsai explains that this is normal in the current market as large companies are finding it increasingly challenging to communicate across teams and departments.

The latest generation of collaborative business chat software solves this by offering chat rooms and video conferencing, along with traditional file sharing across all devices including smartphones and tables. Most also integrate with existing apps.