10 Message Interoperability Best Practices You Need To Know
How easy is it to get everyone onto the same collaboration platform?
You’ve got your Microsoft fans preaching the new features of Microsoft Teams and your CTO suggesting you go all-in on Webex.
It’s a constant battle, isn’t it?
Rather than letting workplace silos form, follow these message interoperability best practices to ensure an optimum deployment and continuous success.
1 – Start with your users that need message interop
The easiest way to encourage adoption is to start with what your people need and work backward.
Don’t migrate Slack to Microsoft Teams because your licensing favors the Microsoft stack. Only do so if it’s best for your business.
In most cases, this isn’t the case. Otherwise, your Slack users wouldn’t be using Slack in the first place. There is a reason (and often a good one) for them choosing Slack over Teams.
To get a feel of why both platforms need to remain, use the following techniques:
Audit who uses what on a regular basis
If you have tracking software like Rize installed, this does your job for you. Rather than tracking who simply has an app installed (but not used), Rize tracks what gets used and how long for.
For example, a software developer may have Slack and Microsoft Teams installed. But a week may go by without using Teams because they don’t need to talk to anyone who uses that platform until the next week. Rize, or any alternative tracking software, shows what genuinely gets used.
If you don’t have tracking software, you can survey your users.
As you’re already on Slack or Teams, you could use built-in polling tools like Polly to gather feedback. But what happens if the Slack users don’t check Teams (and vice versa).
A better option is to send an all-company email with your own custom-built survey.
You can use Typeform to create an engaging survey that encourages people to complete rather than ignore.
Tip: make your survey as simple as possible. Don’t ask for any information you won’t use.
Identify pain points
You might extract these in your survey. Including multiple choice questions to offer pain points makes it easy for people to choose and will increase your response rate.
But limiting answers to pre-populated suggestions could mean you miss other pain points.
A better technique to identify pain points is to interview team leaders and heads of departments.
Brief them on what you need to discuss so they have time to gather thoughts from their team. Then collate these together in a one-to-one discussion. This doesn’t need to be a face-to-face meeting. If you both prefer written comms or have nailed asynchronous working, use the method you feel most productive.
What to do with these pain points?
Document them and decide who would benefit from message interop. If nobody has any need for cross-platform messages, then you don’t need to implement it.
But, if you have users who need to message Teams-first users but it disrupts their flow so extremely (when they use Slack for everything else), they’re definitely on this list for rolling out message interop first.
Collate a list of departments, channels, and users who need to message cross-platform. These will be your first group to sync when you roll out.
2 – Agree the collaboration tools you need
When you’ve compiled an audit and logged common pain points, make a decision on the collaboration tools you’re going to keep.
This might be an easy decision if you’ve only got two platforms. 50% use Webex and 50% use Microsoft Teams? You’re keeping both.
If the split is this even, a message interoperability best practice is to sync everyone. This way, your entire company can send cross-platform messages from Webex to Microsoft Teams.
If the split is more like 50% Microsoft Teams, 35% Zoom, 10% Slack, and 5% Webex, you’ve got a tougher decision to make.
In the case that these Slack users genuinely don’t need to collaborate with your other users, you can leave them be. On the rare occasion this is the case, the best decision is not to interrupt their routine.
Removing Webex from your remaining 5% could be a tougher ask. Or it might be the case that they only use Webex because they didn’t know about the other options.
Your audit (from #1) will help here. Make sure the decision you make is best for the long-term communication strategy for your business rather than a snap decision.
3 – Identify how you can achieve message interop
You can’t achieve message interop simply by installing two platforms.
That means that you’re going to need another way to link your employee’s conversations. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)
There are several ways to link collaboration apps. Each with their pros and cons.
You could try:
- Calling integrations
- Using webhooks to trigger activities
- Creating your own app using an app builder
- Configuring IFTTT actions
- A new app for everyone to come together
- Full message interoperability
If you need your users to have access to features that exist in one platform on another, message interoperability is the only option. There’s no new app for users to learn and there’s feature parity across apps.
Check out the table of Mio’s supported features when you need to connect internal departments.
In some cases, like reactjis, platforms like Slack have plenty of options to use. Other platforms like Microsoft Teams, Webex, and Zoom Team Chat have less in their reaction inventory hence there is not yet complete feature parity.
4 – Speak with industry peers to hear their success
Like any technology purchase, it’s important to hear how others are using similar products.
In this case, there are early adopters who’ve been developing their own message interoperability best practices.
For example, Angela Ferrante, CEO of Laudable, posted how they’ve reduced their reliance on email 100%.
It might be someone you know, someone in a LinkedIn group, or asking your chosen vendor for an introduction to an existing customer.
5 – Find the right tool to connect your platforms
When you decide on full message interoperability, the only native option is Mio.
While the history of message interoperability has unveiled options that involve a unified inbox and solutions that cover some requirements, make sure you understand exactly what the tool you’re choosing offers you.
With Mio, you sign up for an account and grant Mio access to each account you want to connect e.g. Slack and Zoom.
Mio then joins the channels and/or users within each platform, obtaining user information and mapping primary accounts within your network.
Once your channels and users are mapped, you can start sending messages on your aligned chat tools.
Mio receives those messages as API events and translates them into a language that Slack and Zoom can all understand.
Mio sits in the background of your approved channels and spaces, allowing conversations to sync between every member of your team.
6 – Conduct a security review
Conducting a security review is best practice almost every enterprise goes through when buying new tech.
When translating messages from one platform to another, Mio passes on the data rather than storing it. Hence, Mio is SOC 2 Type II certified and adheres to both GDPR and CCPA data privacy controls.
While these security credentials meet most security requirements, it’s not uncommon for individual businesses to conduct their own internal reviews.
To help with this process, partners should provide access to their own security documentation.
7 – Document your message interop strategy
If you don’t document your strategy, it’s really just an idea in your head. What happens when you go on vacation? Does the project stop because nobody else knows the next step?
Get everything down on (virtual) paper. This way, you’ll be able to make iterations and work collaboratively with other departments and staff.
Include things like which channels you’re going to sync and which users need to chat with other platforms.
For example, your accounts team on Microsoft Teams might never chat to anyone outside of their own office. You probably don’t need to sync them with your Zoom Team Chat users.
One key element to include is how and when to access the back end of your interop solution. It’s also important to document contact details for your chosen integration partner.
Should the IT admin leave, it needs to remain accessible to their replacement.
Andrei Soroker, CEO of Fogbender, and founder of interop provider Sameroom, recalls what happens when you don’t document this.
“In my experience, integrations were often tied to someone’s individual account, and when this person leaves, it blows up the whole thing. This despite the fact that we’ve always recommended setting things up in a way that could survive the “got hit by a truck” scenario.”
Define success criteria
It’s no good following these message interoperability best practices if you don’t know what success looks like.
Some businesses include a test plan to ensure everything is supported between one platform and another. You can also use this to track features that aren’t yet supported between vendors.
For example, Microsoft Teams doesn’t have custom emojis so Slack can’t send those cross-platform.
Your success criteria might be as simple as text-based messages send from Webex to Zoom. But it could be as complex as ensuring files transfer from Slack to Microsoft Teams in the right format.
Whatever you need to achieve, and have confirmed can be covered by message interop, define your success criteria.
8 – Communicate what’s happening and when
For internal users, it’s important they know what’s happening at all times.
If you catch them by surprise, there may be pushback and confusion. For example, letting Slack users know they no longer need to log in to Webex to message their colleagues sounds great on paper.
But, if they don’t know it’s coming, you run the risk of them sticking to old, unproductive habits.
Instead, communicate how easy their work communications will become. Explain they’ll no longer need to switch between platforms, when the change is happening, and they won’t need to learn a new user interface.
When you give people information upfront, you’ll get better buy-in and more natural adoption.
This can be as simple as an all-staff email or an @everyone message in your announcements channel.
9 – Choose your message interop champions
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 you class as shadow IT already.
While you may view them as rebels not wanting to use the standard messaging app, they are the people you need to engage when developing your strategy.
Outside of the shadow IT users, you will have your early adopters.
These are the users that live and breathe team collaboration. They’re on the webinars, they follow the people on Twitter. They might even be the people who introduced you to message interoperability.
Early adopters love tech.
Their strengths often lie in using the tech and spreading the 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.
10 – Think about message interoperability optimization
This doesn’t have to be a “now” thing. But do keep in mind the pace of change in your business.
What happens if someone starts using the chat features in Google Workspace?
Or what if new people join your company and want to use another platform?
When you document your interop strategy (see section 7), think about the future as well as the now.
It might be pretty blank right now. But leave space for future people, platforms, and features.
Ready to get started with message interop? Connect your platforms here.