At the recent Future Assistant Conference I asked our attendees how many of them use WhatsApp to communicate with their colleagues and their bosses. Many of them did, which didn’t surprise me in the least. It is a very simple app that pretty much everyone uses these days. A few of the attendees that didn’t use WhatsApp were concerned that using the messaging tool would blur the line between their personal and professional lives. Again, something I totally understand. So, today I thought I’d write about some of the advantages of using WhatsApp and actually how organisations are making the most of WhatsApp for business. Before I launch into the blog post I should just say there is the WhatsApp for Business platform which is designed for small businesses to interact with their clients. In this case, I am talking about the standard WhatsApp application that people use to communicate with their friends etc.
Cheap and easy access to your colleagues
So the first and obvious reason that most people are using WhatsApp as a communication tool is that it is free and it can be used wherever you happen to be in the world. Connect to WiFi or have a good 4G connection and off you go. You can communicate, send messages, phone or video call any of your contacts who are also using WhatsApp. Easy Peasy. In January 2015, half a billion people around the world are using WhatsApp. I’m guessing that number has dramatically increased since then, so you can safely assume all of your colleagues are using it too. Most people who have downloaded the app to use it instead of SMS which has almost become a defunct way to communicate with other people. If most people are using something it kinda makes sense that you integrate that tool into your everyday activities at work rather than introduce a new platform. If everyone has WhatsApp on their phones, why not use the app to enable easy communications between staff?
When you need to get a quick message to your colleague or your manager it makes sense to ping them a quick WhatsApp. For example, if their meeting is running over. You can send a very quick message that states they have to exit their current meeting and make their way to the next one. If they are travelling you can update them via WhatsApp rather than clog up their email. For simple messages that do not need to be stored or mulled over then a messaging system works wonders.
People are using WhatsApp and check it on a regular basis, which means you don’t have to embed a new system and encourage everyone to log on and check their messages. They are already using WhatsApp frequently.
Internal communication tool
As most of you will know WhatsApp has a brilliant function that allows users to set up group chats. This can be used to great effect at work. Your organisation can have lots of different group chats depending on the context. It could be a project group, or the work football team. It could simply be your department or a group for the Executive board. It is such a simple piece of software that pretty much anyone can use it and the group chat function is great for teams.
Although a huge number of people are using WhatsApp on their phones many of you won’t know that you can also use WhatsApp on your desktop. Cool, huh?! All you have to do to is head over to WhatsApp Web. Follow the instructions and voilà! You have your entire WhatsApp account on your computer screen.
If you do use WhatsApp is an internal communication tool the desktop application is brilliant. You can see all of the messages, you can attach documents and images and you can search the messages for particular content. All of the messages that you send via your desktop are also available on your phone too.
International Calling and Video Conferencing
Another huge benefit of WhatsApp is the ability to make calls wherever you are in the world and also video conferencing. For a busy Executive on the road this a great tool to have on their phone. Again, it is free so it can save a ton of money, particularly for small businesses.
Some other helpful features on WhatsApp
Another helpful feature on WhatsApp is the ability to broadcast a message to everyone on your contact list. This makes sending out quick messages to everyone super easy.
For any messages that do require you to follow up or action you can actually email the message history to yourself so that you have can work from your inbox or backup the request.
But, is it secure?
Hum, now this is a tricky question. Especially as Facebook, who own WhatsApp, are currently in the news again concerning their data security. What we do know is that WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption, which means that only you and the sender of the messages are able to see what has been said. WhatsApp don’t store the messages on their servers and don’t allow third party access. HOWEVER, using WhatsApp does not provide the security that your business requires for their data protection. They don’t back anything up and they don’t meet the requirements of GDPR which will be introduced in Europe this May. And, actually there is a whole other issue around members of staff having access to your personal telephone number, which could go against your organisation’s personal data policy.
So what I would say is this. Be careful. WhatsApp is a great tool to use when communicating with your colleagues and your Executive. But, use your work phone if you have one. Not your personal phone. If you don’t have a work phone, don’t use WhatsApp. Before you embark on using WhatsApp for work communications make sure that you have read your organisation’s social media, data, technology and communication policies. These policies should be pretty robust and will outline the data issues and the responsibilities of staff when using Apps and other communication tools. Again, if they don’t have these documents, don’t use WhatsApp.
Lastly, use your common sense. Don’t send anything on a WhatsApp message that is confidential or could be a potential breach of data.