At Unifize, we have several thousand screenshots of Whatsapp and iMessage groups, email clients and CRM / ERP / PLM tools that we gleaned from on-site interviews with users over many months of what we called ‘Process Mapping’ during our customer development process. I can’t say they make great bedtime reading.
Broadly, we found two use cases of P2P chat-based platforms like Whatsapp and iMessage for conducting company business:
- Cross-Functional Groups: By far the most prolific usage of these P2P chat platforms, Cross-Functional Groups are set-up to manage general communication between collaborating teams with no specific objective other than to facilitate a continuous flow of information. These groups exist in perpetuity and members are slowly added / removed as the organisational structure changes. For example, there might be a Quality Group for exchanging information about complaints or non-conformances, a Sales Group for general communication between and across sales team members, or a Leadership Group with the CEO and his key lieutenants, etc etc.
- Task Force Groups: An alternative usage of Whatsapp and iMessage are groups resembling Task Forces set-up to achieve a specific goals. For example, to resolve a maintenance issue or a delayed quote that required collaboration between different teams and individuals for a specific purpose and length of time.
The use of P2P chat platforms to enable Cross-Functional Teams and Tasks Forces evidently provides at least some benefit, otherwise no-one would be using them at all. However, given the endless ongoing communication issues, these tools appear only to alleviate – not solve – the problems.
To understand this better, we need to understand these problems (and their root causes) in more depth.