There are debates that rage on in different quaters about the need to move all office chats from WhatsApp onto Microsoft Teams or whether to remain on WhatsApp. I would also like to share my thoughts on the subject. I would highlight both the merits and demerits of each tool so as to give us all a better perspective of the topic under consideration.
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses that can operate remotely to do so. Unfortunately, many business owners and employees have seen their fortunes being adversely affected by COVID-19. Communication tools are one of the arsenals that help employees, team leads, team members, employers and owners stay in touch with each other.
Before introduction of COVID-19 into our lives, the most common communication tool that would have been used would undoubtably have been WhatsApp. Undeniably, there are no two ways about that. There is a reason that WhatsApp became this big over the past years. WhatsApp has been so popular that it was used the first choice for business communications both to external persons (that is the customers) and internal persons (that is the staff). Even without the Coronavirus, WhatsApp patronage would have kept on rising.
An alternative tool that has grown in popularity has been Microsoft Teams ( usually simply referred to as Teams ). However, Teams’ exponential growth has been aided by the restrictions brought on by the pandemic as well as its effect on businesses.
In ranking both these two tools, we will want to get a sense of which is more appropriate for communications and why.
Considerations for group communications
However, what must we consider when trying to pick a tool for group communications? Here are two critical items, I believe must be considered.
- The role of BYOD: BYOD refers to Bring Your Own Device. A lot of people do office communications on their personal mobile phones. These devices are the same devices which house both private details as well as company secrets. In the event they leave the company, then they leave the company with company secrets on their personal devices. There should be rules either clearly supporting or banning such use. Some the personal devices of workers are even shared with non-employees! Some parents also share their phones with their children. Interestingly, it is not entirely out of place that married couples would also use or check each other’s phones to make calls and for other purposes.
- Administration rules on onboarding or exiting staff: There needs to be a set of policies strictly adhered to that govern the governance of how new staff are added to group platforms. Of course, these should also include, how staff who exit the company are removed from these group platforms.
These two items are significant, for the protection of not just the team’s communication but the company’s communications as well. It is highly inappropriate for messages meant for specific persons to be read by persons who are not employees of an organization. A company’s potential success or failure can be built on the type of sensitive data shared on the group’s channel.
Let us commence with the direct comparisons of both tools with an overview.
- Active users: Microsoft Teams has approximately 75 million active users, whilst Facebook’s WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion users. That is a ratio of 27 WhatsApp users for every 1 person using Teams. The greater active user numbers of WhatsApp as compared to Teams means that anybody using Teams may already be using WhatsApp.
- Device support: WhatsApp is pre-installed on most Android devices. The types of applications installed on a phone are one of the reasons, one phone is purchased over another. I have often heard a overheard a few customers who would want to purchase a mobile phone ask if WhatsApp is installed on the phone or if it can be installed on the mobile phone. However, I cannot say the same thing with Microsoft Teams. In fact, I tried installing Teams on a specific phone model, and alas it was not successful. Hence if you are looking to which application is more likely to reside on an employee’s device then look no further than WhatsApp.
- Staying power: WhatsApp was released as far back as 2009, whilst Teams was as recent as 2017. Interestingly, Microsoft Teams’ widespread adoption has taken hold this year, ostensibly because of COVID-19.
However, is comparison possible? What do both tools do that are the same. If comparisons are possible, let us look at where these come up. The similarities here include and more not be limited to
- Instant messaging: WhatsApp’s crowning feature was with sending messages over the internet. Thereby beating down the costs of sending a message to your loved ones. If was initially a thorn in the flesh of telecom companies, however and with time they have all come to appreciate its value. For now, the fees have moved from SMS to data. And this trend has apparently come to stay. Thus, it is no wonder that Teams as one of its core and noticeable functionalities has a compatible feature.
- VoIP: Voice over IP uses an Internet connection (VoIP) rather than the cellular phone service to make calls. Both Teams and WhatsApp support this functionality in slightly different ways. Both are enjoyable to use as well.
- File sharing solutions: Its possible to share videos, images, documents on both these platforms.
- Video conferencing: And yes, both tools allow you to do video calls.
Both tools are also not the same. Each is perfect for different purposes. Trying to compare both will be like comparing apples to oranges. Here is how they differ.
One of the striking differences is the market categories within which both operate. Both are not in the same market category. WhatsApp is specifically targeting towards customers, whilst Teams targets company staff. It even says so from WhatsApp’s website. WhatsApp says “Connecting the World Privately”. The keyword is privately. WhatsApp excels as a messaging service, whilst Teams excels as a workplace collaboration tool.
Consequently, WhatsApp is not a direct competitor against Microsoft Teams. In looking at the competition, both operate within wildly terrain.
As mentioned, WhatsApp excels as a messaging service hence the competition includes the following.
Similarly, Teams does every well as a collaboration tool. Two notable competitors, who also saw comparably rises in popularity and usage during the pandemic are
Advantages of Facebook’s WhatsApp
Enough of the comparisons, where does WhatsApp do very well. Here are the advantages of WhatsApp.
- WhatsApp does personal messaging very well. If you want to retain all the intimate personal chats with your friends and family that you are so used to then WhatsApp has all of that.
- WhatsApp can be found on all major phone platforms, hence WhatsApp is more likely to be supported on any phone model found in the market.
- WhatsApp has a full gallery of expression able gifs, emojis or emoticons.
- WhatsApp is great for showcasing your latest offerings as a business to customers.
- With WhatsApp you also do not need to change people’s habit. It is inherently difficult to get people out of the habit, as people generally hate change.
- WhatsApp operates as a dual purpose app. WhatsApp can play a dual-purpose role when it comes to busy people, who are forever on the move and who need to keep a tab on both work and family messages at the same time. It can perfectly serve the purpose of fun and sharing business information. For employees, you can communicate with them using WhatsApp. You can also communicate with your vendors, partners, and customers as well.
Disadvantages of Facebook’s WhatsApp
WhatsApp is not perfect, despite the rave reviews that are on the Play store. Here a few places it falls short. The following are reasons not to use WhatsApp for group communications.
- WhatsApp is not appropriate for sharing company data, and intellectual property. Access to WhatsApp only needs the phones PIN or password hence anyone can read company sensitive details.
- WhatsApp does not protect you against data loss. There is no protection against data loss. Backup of confidential, business content can be a big issue. Especially when the data is something important. You cannot keep going to your boss to ask him to resend that file he shared on WhatsApp. On WhatsApp you are fully accountable for making sure that those details do not fall into the wrong hands and kept very safe indeed.
- The administration of staff data is more tedious using WhatsApp. Imagine your company has 10 employees. It is easy to place these 10 employees on WhatsApp. However, imagine that you have 300 employees. Gathering all their phone numbers and adding them suddenly becomes a lot more work. In short, there is no administration function for companies on WhatsApp.
- WhatsApp does not segregate company and private messages. Having the dual-purpose functionality which comes with WhatsApp is great. However, is it advisable to mix busines and pleasure. I heard it creatively being said onetime “Do not get your honey where you get your money”. Both private and business messages in the same app can get you distracted easily. Have you almost sent the wrong message to a work colleague, boss, or the wrong group? It is best to keep all these conversations separate to avoid the apologizes you may have to give later.
Advantages of Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams also has its merits. These are a few that I would like to highlight.
Teams allows you to enjoy the full benefit of Microsoft Office 365. When your company is already paying for Office 365, then using Teams which is a part of the office bundle means that there is the opportunity to derive more value for money. Hence, as you integrate Office 365 tools into your workflow you will enjoy benefits such as.
- Store files in SharePoint,
- Having your notes in OneNote.
- Teams allows you to make use of the Active Directory to help with facilitates secure data administration. By using the LDAP, Teams makes it make easier for employees to log into their accounts. They do not need to remember different usernames and passwords. Just their Outlook credentials are sufficient to ensure that they have login access into their secured accounts. Additionally, immediately, you type and search for someone in Microsoft Teams, you know who that person is, his rank in the organization as well as his email. This is not possible with WhatsApp. The only thing you are likely to know is the person’s email within WhatsApp.
- Microsoft Teams enables direct connection with SharePoint, One Drive, Power BI, OneNote, Dropbox, and Google Drive. These are only a few of the possible integrations. There are also a host of other integrations that are available with. You can also integrate with popular apps like Twitter, Trello, Jira, Mind Meister, and GitHub to mention a few.
Microsoft Teams avails to you a lot of features. You can make use of additional functionalities such as;
- recording calls for absent workmates
- being able to share screens
- add quiet hours to your Teams profile, so you will not be disturbed by colleagues in the evening or in the weekend
- Teams enforces two-factor authentication, and single sign-on.
- Teams protects you against the loss of your data. You want to be assured of the protection of data. Every file you share over Teams is saved to your OneDrive account. Microsoft Teams also makes sure that data in transit and at rest has data encryption.
Disadvantages of Microsoft Teams
Nothing is perfect. There are a few items working against Teams. And these are the few I was able to read and hear about.
- With Teams some people complain of always being logged out. Due to the stringent access controls being enforced, some say they do not get any notifications and are always being logged out.
- With Microsoft Teams, it is difficult to change people’s behavior to accepting it full heartedly. Change is the biggest challenge of our time. If it is not managed entirely well if can derail the good work that preceded it.
- Microsoft Teams does not have the as big a collection of Gifs and emojis as seen with other apps.
In the end there is no correct answer on the right tool to use. However, within the business sighting, Teams is perfect for business collaboration, sharing as well as the protection of sensitive files and data. And when communicating with clients, sharing announcements and such, WhatsApp is the preferrable tool to use.
Going forward have conversations with your team. What helps them work together efficiently whilst not diverting from the governance that keeps the organization in check. We need to be protected against hacks.
Be clear one purpose of what you are trying to achieve. There is a clear purpose for each. Are you aiming to be consumer centric or staff centric?
Hence ask yourself the following questions in determining which tool helps you the most.
- Is it to socialize?
- Is it for work?
- Who are we communicating with?
- Is it for internal conversations?
- Is it for social chats and teases?
All these questions would lead us to selecting the right tool. I hope I have left you with a few thoughts to chew on as you speak with your team to make the right decision.