It says something about the state of collaboration tech that the disruptors of a few years ago are at danger of being disrupted. 

For example, take Google Hangouts. A novel development when it was released by Google in 2013, Hangouts can be used to message a friend or co-worker or up to one hundred people for a group chat.

But now it could conceivably be displaced by San Francisco-based Slack Technologies, a workspace collaboration tool that has quickly grown in popularity as well as third-party features — and is now adding video and voice to the menu.

So could Skype Technologies, for that matter, which Microsoft acquired in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. Indeed, Google Hangouts was referred to as a Skype-killer when it was introduced some two years later.

Spot the Pattern?

New York City-based BetterCloud did and it discusses this trend in its unbelievably well-timed report, "Real-time Messaging Research and Comparison Real-Time Messaging: Data Unearths Surprising Findings on Usage, Distraction, and Organizational Impact."

However, the report’s finding take on a surprising twist. The disruptors-get-disrupted story line does not pan out.

Instead it finds that, as of right now, there is enough room for multiple messaging apps in the enterprise and indeed, we can see with our own eyes that Google Hangouts didn’t kill Skype. 

More than likely, Slack is not going to turn out to be a Hangouts assassin. More than half, or 57 percent, of respondents told BetterCloud that their organizations use two more real-time messaging apps with little conflict.

Now Here’s the Twist

There is a technology that is getting disrupted but it is not another real-time messaging app. Instead it is traditional telephony.

The survey unearthed that an eye-popping 71 percent of small-to-medium will not invest in another phone system at all or will not increase their investment in these systems, in large part because of real-time instant messaging and video conferencing applications.

Who Needs Multiple Messaging Apps?

One might wonder a company needs, say, both Slack and Skype. BetterCloud quickly dispatches that question in its report. Obviously, different departments have different needs. 

”Sales teams may need to easily chat and video conference their prospects, which makes Google Hangouts and Skype for Business quality candidates. Engineering teams may need to configure integrations and Slack bots to receive timely information in a group channel rather than clogging inboxes.”

Shadow IT — where users use devices and software outside IT's control — is another reason organizations may have multiple applications, the report said. "End users may decide to use an unauthorized application, and over time, as more users begin adopting the application, IT may choose to embrace it instead of stomping out its organic growth."

Learning Opportunities

The larger the organization, the more likely it is to use even more than two messaging apps, Taylor Gould, VP of Marketing at BetterCloud told CMSWire.  "We have seen them go as high as five or more, some of which is due to user preference."

The Desk Phone is Dying

So, whew, your favorite messaging app is likely safe from extinction. For all the aforementioned reasons, these apps are not cannibalizing one another, provided they remain competitive with their features.

Email, though, might be headed for the tech dustbin in the sky, at least according to more than half of the respondents in the survey who say real-time messaging could eclipse email in the future. Here, BetterCloud sided with the almost half (44 percent) of poll respondents that said that real-time messaging will never displace email.

"Email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, regardless of whether or not it’s your organization’s primary means of communication and collaboration,” it declared. “At this point, real-time messaging is an enhancement to email, not a replacement."

The desk phone, though, is another matter. "If you're one of the 32 percent of respondents who will be rolling out another phone system at some point, don’t be surprised if it's your company’s last," the report said.

This is not just due to real time messaging apps, though. Rather, it has been a combination of technologies and trends, from mobile devices to the "bring your own device" explosion. A significant portion of IT admins (68 percent) will either keep their phone system investment the same or will not invest in another phone system at all, the survey found.

If this finding surprises you, you are in good company. 

Even BetterCloud was taken aback by the lopsided numbers. "We did expect some percentage of respondents to say they wouldn’t upgrade, but we but didn’t expect it to be the majority," Gould said.

Title image by Crew