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5 questions to ask when developing a messaging interop strategy

Blog October 2, 2019
Messaging Interop Strategy
Dominic Kent

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5 questions to ask when developing a messaging interop strategy

Messaging Interop Strategy

Whether you use Slack, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams, Skype for Business, or any of the vast amount of workplace messaging apps, developing a messaging interop strategy must be top of your agenda.

In this post, we highlight 5 key considerations as you start your journey into keeping your teams in sync.

1 – One-size-fits-all versus interop strategy

Firstly, you need to make the decision that will better your business for years to come.

Consolidate your collaboration platforms

Are you going to force a section of users onto a platform they are unfamiliar with and discontinue the other?

This may seem like the right decision to make cost-wise. But only until you have realized the potential cost savings of implementing an interop strategy.

By auditing where licenses are currently consumed (and therefore charged), your team collaboration strategy could quickly be consolidated from 7 chat tools to 2 primary chat tools.

This is where platform consolidation can stop. If users of 7 platforms has become 2, you now have the perfect opportunity to let your users choose which platform they wish to use.

This way, you can have the benefit of offering a platform to use, as well as the control of operating fewer platforms.

There’s also the added benefit of not locking down your team collaboration to a single platform – which comes with its own considerable disadvantages.

Once your 2 primary tools are selected, our People Sync feature, in the Mio Hub, gives you a clear picture of consumption across your platforms and enables you to see who will ultimately be using what platform.

From here, you can set up each user on a primary platform and remove the unneeded license on the platform they will no longer use.

If you don’t know which platform is their platform of choice, you even have the option to let them choose.

Embrace messaging interop

Way back in 2005, a Gartner report by Betsy Burton stated that to derive value from collaboration investments, you must view collaboration as more than a technology deployment.

Between 2005 and 2019, a lot has changed in the team collaboration world.

The modern apps that we used today, like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Cisco Webex Teams didn’t even exist then.

Team collaboration timeline

However, the statement remains 100% true.

Betsy hit the nail on the head concluding:

“It’s about more than just having the “right” IT tools.”

Each IT tool solves a separate problem.

And you’ll know from experience that there are lots of problems that need solving!

Naturally then, there is a lot of “right” IT tools in your business.

But, with all these tools, it is important not to get too stuck up on the features and functionality of each technology.

Andrew Froelich mentions the importance of business strategy over technology when it comes to any strategy in a post for Information Week.

“CIOs and IT management should be paying little attention to vendors and products. Instead, their focus should be on how they can use technology to shape business strategy.”

This is applicable to all forms of business change. Not just messaging interop.

It should be high on your list when assessing whether one-size-fits-all or messaging interop is right for your business.

2 – Selecting your interop champions

Communication has changed.

10 or 20 years ago, it was more than acceptable to get your telephone engineers to make a change to your phone system.

In today’s software-driven world, you need different personas with different skillsets.

Your telephone engineers will always serve their purpose. But, they are not the only people you need to engage when developing your messaging interop strategy.

Failure to identify the right stakeholders and resources could result in a wasted investment of both time and people.

The good news?

You don’t always need to hire new talent.

It’s likely that you have users advocating software that you class as shadow IT already.

Shadow messaging is an extension of Shadow IT and traditionally involved apps like Slack
Shadow messaging is an extension of Shadow IT and traditionally involved apps like Slack

While they may traditionally be seen as rebels not wanting to use the standard messaging app, they are the exact people you need to engage when developing your messaging interop strategy.

Outside of the shadow IT users, you will have your early adopters.

These are the users that live and breathe team collaboration.

They used Webex Teams as soon as it was available, uninstalling Jabber immediately despite being it their trusted IM for years and years.

The same scenario applies if you’re a Microsoft house. You just need to swap some words around…

They used Microsoft Teams as soon as it was available, uninstalling Skype for Business immediately despite it being their trusted IM for years and years.

Early adopters love tech.

Use this.

Their strengths often lie in using the technology and spreading the productivity benefits team collaboration brings.

Once briefed on your plans for messaging interop, they can take their passion for modern technology and spread the interop word.

3 – Is your wider team ready for messaging interop?

It won’t be a surprise to hear that some team members are used to juggling multiple messaging platforms.

Our Director of Customer Success, Frank Geck, tells the story of one engineer he sat down with during a customer visit.

“As I sat next to him, he was literally translating a conversation on one platform to the other.”

In fact, our Workplace Messaging Report shows that 91% of businesses use at least 2 messaging apps.

91% of business use at least 2 messaging apps
91% of business use at least 2 messaging apps

So, while this is a humorous image, it’s also a genuine representation of how some businesses currently use messaging apps.

Do you need to consolidate Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Webex Teams?
Don’t let this be you.

What does this mean?

Before you make your messaging apps interoperable, you need to inform your users this is happening.

You may even need to sell it to them internally.

What you are doing here is preparing your entire organization for a genuine digital transformation.

This is no longer a buzzword but a reality.

Each company needs their own personalized approach but we recommend something like this:

  • Communicate a general overview of what is happening and the benefits of the change
  • Follow up with tailored messages to users of specific platforms to let them know they will no longer suffer from working in silos and constantly experiencing app overload
  • Select a champion from each department or location to filter down any less important information that doesn’t require a company-wide broadcast

Once you’ve communicated what is happening, it’s crucial that you keep both management stakeholders and users on the ground informed of progress.

Something gets delayed? Let everyone know.

Something is running ahead of time? Let everyone know.

Even if the scope changes ever so slightly… you guessed it.

4 – How will use you use messaging interop?

Within your overall messaging interop strategy is your syncing strategy.

Ask yourself these questions…

  • Do you primarily use DMs?
  • Are you a channel-oriented company?
  • Do we use a mix of both equally – or heavily?

All of these answers are correct.

Mio can facilitate any mix of messaging interop use cases.

Even in the case of rolling out a new platform, it’s best practice to identify how you will use Mio – and this can be in stages.

Skype to Teams

For example, you might be moving from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams.

You might be moving from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams when planning your messaging interop strategy
You might be moving from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams when planning your messaging interop strategy

In this case, your users will be used to the instant messaging features of Skype for Business.

In Microsoft Teams, the DM function replaces one-to-one messaging that everyone is used to in Skype.

To begin with, here we would recommend your primary syncing strategy be syncing your DMs so your new Teams users continue chatting as they did in Skype – only now they can chat across platform with their Slack or Webex colleagues.

Jabber to Webex Teams

The same applies when you are upgrading from Jabber to Webex Teams, or perhaps opting to turn on team messaging mode in Jabber.

Again, users will be used to the one-to-one messaging experience in Jabber so it makes sense to make this your priority when syncing teams across platform.

But you’re turning on team messaging mode (or upgrading) for a reason.

So, when you start to roll out team messaging features, Mio can have your Webex spaces readily setup so the cross-platform channel experience reflects the cross-channel DM experience your teams know and love.

5 – What is the success criteria for your proof of concept?

It’s the first thing customers ask us.

How can we set up a proof of concept?

Our counter-answer is:

“What is your company’s IT mission? What are you trying to achieve?”

Before we put together a proof of concept, we need to know your team collaboration and messaging plans and goals.

A sample test plan might look something like this…

Sample Mio test plan
Sample Mio test plan

Once you’ve established exactly what you want to verify from your proof of concept, you’re ready to start rolling out Mio.

Rollout timing and strategy

There are two common cases when rolling out Mio…

  1. Some teams want to heavily plan a rollout in phases before getting approval to announce to the whole company that change (for the better) is coming.
  2. Others are happy to do a shorter proof of concept with a focused user group and proceed to the full rollout when success criteria have been met.

Either way is possible with Mio and we are happy to help you decide which option is best for your team.

We cover the rollout process at a high level in this post.

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