Employees are the most valuable assets an organization owns. These employees need to be able to connect with each other and to access the right information in order to get work done. But emails have been a burden for many years, meaning employees spend 30% of their working time on searching, filtering, classifying and answering emails. In order to innovate and to remain competitive, organizations need to find the right tools to allow their teams to communicate and collaborate in real time, and in context. But often they don't know where to start or where to look, as the market becomes ever more crowded and offers such a range of possibilities: Task Management Applications, Messaging Applications, Social Network Enterprises, Project Managers, the list goes on…. and no clear leader has been identified so far.
Understanding the true needs of the enterprise when it comes to messaging versus tasking is quite a challenge. Each of these solutions deals with a common problem, which is the asynchronous nature of communication between team members. These solutions aim to replace email, and they've found different ways to do so.
So can this problem be reduced to a good vs. bad method? Should we focus on messaging or should we be finding new models around tasks?
Where we are now
As workplace collaboration has become one of the largest and most vibrant markets, a lot of startups are trying to build tools that can replace emails, and they are all offering different methodologies for email-free team collaboration.
So for many years, the Enterprise Collaboration Market has been driven by two main tendencies: Communication Applications (e.g. Enterprise Social Networks) and Task Management Applications. I won't talk about Project Management Software in this article, because that focuses on more complex needs. Besides, it isn't directly relevant to the needs of every organization: not everyone needs a project manager, but everyone needs a solution that limits working with emails. It is precisely here that tasks and messages are competing.
So this is a crowded market, but that is not a bad thing because not all organizations have the same collaboration and communication needs, and what is more, these startups provide each other with enough motivational competition to improve their applications.
Yet it is not the number of competitors out there that raises questions, but rather the fact that so far, no clear leader has been identified. Does this mean that the right formula has not been found yet? Well, maybe it just has.
With Slack's recent launch, the market has changed over the past few months. Last October, the startup announced fundraising of $120 million, placing its value at $1.12 billion. Furthermore, Slack has recorded an incredible and rapid growth, onboarding some 250,000 users daily. Slack focuses on messaging, and works with about 50 integrations. In some ways, Slack has changed the market rules and has become "one of the most valuable business software startups in the world".
So does this mean that integrated instant messaging is the Future of Work?
Before Slack launched, one task management application was market leader: Asana. But it has never achieved what Slack has managed to accomplish so far, and a great part of Asana's success comes from its founder's background (he co-founded Facebook).
So is the market speaking for itself and letting us know that chatting is the solution we've all been waiting for? Is task management too complex to respond to basic needs and to replace emails?
Tasking VS. Messaging? Or Tasking AND Messaging?
A Social Task Management Application groups social interactions around tasks; tasks enriched with data for teamwork and/or project tracking. Task Management is not only about discussing; it's about deadlines, milestones, etc. It's about getting work done.
An Enterprise Social Network is an internal, private social network used to assist communication within a business. It focuses on providing context for group discussions and information sharing.
Some years ago, organizations started using Enterprise Social Networks (e.g. Yammer), then they moved to Social Task Managers (e.g. Asana), and now they have switched to Integrated Messaging Applications (e.g. Slack). So is messaging overtaking tasking? I'm not so sure.
Slack's recent success is due not only to its message-centric strategy, but also to the fact that it integrates more than 50 applications including task managers. When it comes to team collaboration, we all need fast and easy communication tools, so context chatting is a good option. That's why applications that are focused solely on tasks are not able to take the lead.
But talking about collaboration is also talking about getting things done in a team, and about sharing the things we are doing. This is where task management becomes essential.
Great applications are the ones able to regroup, organize and connect messaging and tasking in one single place. Because emails get people used to discussing things, organizations are first and foremost looking for a messaging application. Tasking is a second step in team management, and when it is connected to a discussion feed, it becomes a powerful tool.
So the winning combination may be: messaging, tasking and integrations.
Earlier, I was telling you that the workplace collaboration market was one of the largest and most vibrant markets. The upcoming "Facebook at work" release in January is proof that everyone is trying to get their slice of the pie. Facebook understood how personal social networking really works. So we'll follow what they say about how they envision workplace communication. Will they focus on group discussion, or will they also put in place a task management system and integrate other services?
But an organization's success depends on a strategy being developed first, before technology is deployed. So if you are looking for the best tool to manage your workflow, start by understanding and evaluating your needs.
I'm still intrigued, and need your feedback. At Azendoo we built a tool to group all your teamwork in one place including messaging, tasking and several integrations. So what would your enterprise need in order to improve its organization and be able to reduce its email exchanges?