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A group chat allows you to see what motivates different teams faster and better. You can move in and out of rooms and quickly catch up. To inexperienced people, this may sound somewhat unsettling. But in our corporate reality, it’s very helpful, because it means that coworkers with specialized experience can also offer effective support to those without that experience and report back. And they can do this in a way that keeps the barriers low. Without requiring any extra meetings. Without any formal barriers. Sometimes it may be just a brief request to get the team to rethink a specific aspect. And experienced employees can be pinged both quickly and easily: 

“@Martin Seibert: Do you think we should grant this customer this wish? The team wants to. We know you’ve had direct contact with them several times over the past few months, so we wanted to ask you again.” 

“Yes, I would do what you are suggesting.”

“Thank you, we’re on it.”

I experience conversations like this several times a day. The advantage for the team is that they can mine my knowledge simply and easily. And the advantage for me is that the barrier to dealing with the issue is low. It means that I don’t have to go to meetings to address individual questions and can also deal with all the pings in bundled form at a time of day that suits me. By pings I mean the notifications I receive on my smartphone or computer: you ping a colleague to alert them to something. 

And these notifications allow everyone to know what’s going on. Lots of new employees report that the simple act of reading digital communications gives them a very good feeling about our culture and communication with our customers, although I have to concede that it can be quite challenging in the beginning to filter what’s important from what isn’t. 

Of course, I also have to be free to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” in an environment like this. Otherwise, the chats hang in the air unnecessarily long, because nobody wants to expose a lack of knowledge. 

A group chat also delivers more transparency in a hierarchical, more rigid environment. If a cultural change comes from the top, a tool like this becomes established a lot more quickly and easily. 

Fleeting Communication – Stored Elsewhere 

Everyone involved in group chats needs to be clear about one thing, however: communication in this environment is fleeting. Of course, I want someone to respond if I mention them personally with an @-mention. In this case, the system takes care of it by itself, because it sends an email if the recipient doesn’t go online to retrieve the message. However, we don’t save these communications and generally don’t search the chats either.

With all the back and forth in a busy group chat, searching for something is pretty pointless anyway. Technically speaking, Google Chat does save messages. But, for us, this is not a valid form of use. We treat the arrangements made and agreements reached in group chats like verbal communication: it’s not stored anywhere in any meaningful form, cannot be referenced, and is fleeting by nature. This is something that can certainly be debated. And I can imagine you may see things differently. In individual cases, I might even go so far as to dig out a chat myself and place it under a colleague’s nose to prove that they did firmly promise to do X, Y, or Z. But we don’t use chats to coordinate tasks. We don’t record any logs. We don’t use them to document knowledge. Everything with long-term importance is housed in other systems. 

Incidentally, there is no interface to the chat software either, nor is one needed. That’s because we simply copy the related posts and paste them into a Jira ticket as comments if we find a chat helpful in moving a task forward. That means that when I return from my vacation, I don’t have to look up last week’s discussion in a chat, because it was fleeting and has long since passed. Anything relevant to me has been conveniently saved and placed where I can easily find it.

For you, it would be best to start thinking now about how you want to approach this. The way we approach chats feels good to us in our company. And this is the way most companies I’m aware of, that use group chats extensively, also approach the topic. 

Group Chat as a Cockpit for Real-time Communication

We can regard an established and well-designed group chat system as a kind of operating system for the company in which 

  • Processes that have been initiated are managed, reconciled, and coordinated. 
  • Everything that happens is analyzed, processed, and, if necessary, redirected and assigned to the appropriate resources. 
  • Simple decisions are agreed to directly. 
  • Experts are called in when needed. 
  • Processes are made faster and smoother. 
  • Friction during daily operations is noticeably reduced. 
  • Small weaknesses can be compensated for easily and quickly.
  • Issues are quickly recognized as such and quickly unraveled together. 

 

So, let’s recap: if you want to stage a modern intranet platform or functioning digital workplace these days, chat software is a must. Lots of intranet platforms already have integrated chat systems on board. 

One thing should be clear to you here, however: if the solution is not better than WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it will be difficult for it to succeed. A solution that’s better than WhatsApp, on the other hand, can spread like wildfire. Who wants to participate in something illegal? And Facebook Messengers can’t be compliant in an enterprise context.

WhatsApp isn’t that bad as a piece of software. After all, over a billion people use it every month. Our experience is that most standard chat systems on intranet platforms can’t hold a candle to it. The idea of offering a chat system along with your intranet platform is certainly a good one. But if it fails to meet the minimum requirements, it will simply not get used.


Link to this page: https://seibert.biz/intranetbookcommunication


The Social Intranet

Foster collaboration and strengthen communication. Be effective with enterprise intranets mobile and in the cloud.

Virtual Collaboration in Companies: Social Intranets as a Digital Home 

Never before has the business world been so overrun by cloud software and specialized vendors as it is now. There is so much software out there that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of things. It is all the more important for the future of work to have a place for digital meeting - a reliable home port meaningfully networked with numerous other systems that makes it quick and easy to navigate. This will increase transparency in the company and make collaboration more effective. Based on many years of experience, this book tells you how it already works in today's digitalized world and which trends you probably should rather than shouldn't follow.

About the author

Martin Seibert was 17 when he founded the software company Seibert Media. Twenty-four years later, it has nearly 200 employees and generates 35 million euros in annual sales. He has been sharing his enthusiasm for technology in YouTube videos for many years - and now also in his new book about social intranets.


Free for interested parties

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This page was last edited on 03/31/2021.