External Federation: 5 Expectations vs 5 Realities
If you think back to the definition of external federation in the first post in this series, you’ll recall that external federation is the process or technology required for team collaboration apps to communicate with each other across domain.
The reality is that you are already collaborating across different apps and with other teams.
So, what’s the problem?
The tools you are using every day are not optimized for cross-platform or intercompany collaboration.
Take Slack, for example. Its product positioning has pivoted from email killer to internal email replacement.
However, Slack’s popularity in the office has spread to “Slack communities” where groups of users from different organizations come together to share knowledge and chat.
As great as this sounds (and is), this tacks on additional time and context switching to your working day as you must find the most productive way to switch between Slack workspaces.
And it’s not just Slack.
Microsoft Teams guest access is a great feature if you want access to your client’s working environment. But when your single client becomes multiple clients, the workload becomes unmanageable as you have to switch between Microsoft Teams guest accounts.
Expectation 1: We all use the same app so external federation will be easy
It’s a common scenario that everybody in your community uses the same app.
Take the Cisco ecosystem. Resellers, partners, and integrators all tend to use Webex Teams for their chat and messaging needs.
Which is fine if these are the only people you message.
Reality 1: External access in Webex Teams is excellent. As are shared channels in Slack and guest access in Microsoft Teams.
However, when you need to speak to a prospect that doesn’t use Webex Teams yet, you’ll find yourself in a virtuous circle a little like this:
- Add your new contact on the platform of your choice
- Realize they don’t use the same platform as you
- Ask IT what’s wrong with your laptop
- Send an email saying you tried to message them on Webex
- Get a reply the next day saying they use Slack
- Download Slack because you want to win the business
- Realize you are so used to the Webex Teams UI that you need to watch YouTube videos all day
- Add your new contact on Slack
- Realize they don’t have shared channels
- Still can’t message your new contact
- Reply to the previous email and arrange an in-person meeting
Conclusion: When your contacts all use the same platform as you (and have shared, external, or guest access enabled), external federation is not required.
The likelihood of you never need to chat with anyone that uses another platform is low.
In fact, 3.3 is the average number of workplace chat apps in use per business. So, the chances of everybody you need to chat with are slim.
Expectation 2: We don’t need to chat with external parties because we use phone and email
Historically, business communications were split into two buckets:
Synchronous communication: calling someone or having a meeting
Asynchronous communication: email
This isn’t a post to tell you to ditch your telephone. Real-time verbal communication is (and will remain) crucial for lots of businesses.
But, this is a post to make you aware that the business technology stack has evolved.
Sure, Radicati suggests that there are 3.9 billion active email users. Statistica even suggests that email usage is predicted to grow by 2 to 3% each year from 2018 to 2023.
But that doesn’t mean other tools aren’t in use.
And it certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t more productive.
Reality 2: It’s not the 90s. Sure, email feels more formal. Sure, the phone will probably never die.
But the team collaboration market is booming because email isn’t productive enough and asynchronous tools like the phone suck time and life out of projects.
In fact, a recent survey didn’t just show that everyone used a messaging app, it showed that 91% of businesses used at least 2 messaging apps.
And that number is only set to grow over the next 2 years…
Technology has evolved. Team collaboration tools are here. You are already using them. So are all the external parties you communicate with on a daily basis.
It would be foolish to assume we don’t need to chat with external parties because we use phone and email.
If you’re still reading at this point, I’m confident you agree.
If you’re still reading at this point and don’t agree, I’d love to get your viewpoint. Reach out to me on Twitter and we can chat.
Expectation 3: We can use shared channels and guest access per app
In this scenario, you’ve recognized that external parties you chat with use different platforms to you.
Or it might be the case that you have multiple platforms already and are happy to accommodate those external parties on the platform of their choice because you have access to them.
And that’s okay…for an expectation.
Reality 3: This is achievable. But you will have the sacrifice so much of your time switching between those apps that it won’t just drive you crazy but it will cost you time, impact your outputs, and ultimately cause a drain on productivity.
The estimated cost of switching between team collaboration apps is estimated at around $80 per switch.*
*Obviously this changes per person per company but we’ve found $80 is a guide.
This is made up of the following criteria:
- Finding out which platform is preferred on a per supplier or contractor basis
- The time spent literally switching between collaboration tools
- The detrimental output of missing a message because you’re not logged into that tool at all times
- Missing a “quick call” or meeting because you were working in another app
- Time lost responding to duplicated messages on different tools
- The unspoken cost of context switching
Rather than suffering from constant productivity loss, external federation will allow you to say goodbye to managing multiple guest accounts and collaborate with unlimited companies.
This way, you keep all your messages in one place and you keep all the external parties you chat with happy.
In this example, the reality is much better than the expectation.
Expectation 4: We don’t need external federation; everything works fine as is
There’s a famous quote that has been modified for all sorts of uses…
“Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.”Sarah Ashley, Australia
In the world of work and business, this is extremely applicable.
The attitude of we’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean it is the right way. Neither does it mean it is the only way.
There’s another famous quote that comes to mind when people mention the we’ve always done it this way mentality.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”Alan Lakein, Self-Help Author
This modern-day proverb stems from the 1970s but rings true when it comes to preparing your communication tools. Just because the way you work and the tools you use right now are okay, it doesn’t mean you are prepared for your next customer or the next contractor you take on.
Reality 4: Team collaboration tools are aptly named. If you’re using an app like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Webex Teams, it’s to collaborate with other team members and/or other teams.
If, by design, your role only requires you to chat with internal team members, the reality is that you don’t need external federation.
And if your internal team members are using different platforms, you can use Mio to enable native cross-platform chat.
However, if your role requires you to communicate with people outside your organization, you’re missing out on a vastly improved collaboration experience.
External federation will solve this problem and stretch your favorite chat app further. It’s not just messages that can be sent from platform to platform. Emojis, GIFs, threads, and all your favorite chat features are supported too.
Expectation 5: We can wait until each app has its own solution
We totally get this.
You want to chat to all your external contacts and you love your preferred platform of choice. It’s called brand loyalty. It’s what founders and marketers dream of.
We’re exactly the same. We have favorites, just like you.
You want to use Slack because you live in it all day and have a wealth of integrations setup.
Microsoft Teams is your hub because you’re an Office 365 user and all your files and collaborative projects live there.
Webex Teams is linked to your Webex Room Kit and has external calling built-in.
These are all great reasons to want to wait for your favorite platform to just add on a new feature that allows you chat across platform and to external parties.
Reality 5: Native external federation will not exist between team collaboration apps.
Because each brand wants you to use their tool as your primary platform of choice and get all the juicy revenue from your company. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s business.
However, that does leave us with three conclusions…
- There will need to be a connector to federate Slack and Webex Teams.
- There will need to be a connector to federate Slack and Microsoft Teams.
- And yes, there will need to be a connector to federate Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams too.
In 1, 5, or even 10 years’ time, it’s highly unlikely that the likes of Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Webex Teams will support native federation.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t chat with external parties across your chosen apps.
Ultimately, some form of external collaboration will happen whether governed or ungoverned so make sure you plan ahead and get it right first time.
You can start that planning ahead by installing your first universal channel for free.