The art of writing letters, if not dead, is bleeding badly. Today practically everything aside from hard legal contracts is taken care of via email or instant messaging (IM). Even our talking, especially landline telephony, has become shorter, being replaced with a combination of the aforementioned forms of communication, plus an even shorter one: Short Message Service text messaging (SMS). It seems that many major messaging apps are adding new users at the rate of 15 percent or more every three months, and these users are spending three hours a week or more doing what? Not talking. Not letter writing. They’re messaging, either with IM or SMS.
Although practically every enterprise still has a PBX at hand, or one of the IP variety, there are new pressures compelling a change to the equation. The economics of email are wonderful — it’s practically free. We’re also finding that the near-real time communication provided by these alternative methods is good enough to serve most of our needs. Not only that, but we’re also seeing that these methods, being text-based in nature, or merely words on a screen, are necessarily a less personal method of communicating. And we’re okay with that, strangely enough.
But what’s really the last nail in the coffin of landline telephony is the arrival of mobile broadband. Yes, this is much more recent, yet it marks a significant transition away from staid desk phones over to mobile devices. In many ways, this is closer to an optimum way to do telephony, as it also adds more forms of data communication that can expedite quicker communication.
Putting all this together, it’s not hard to see how the alternate forms of communication have become so popular in business circles as of late. It would seem that in many ways, messaging is the new voice, especially if you take it in the sense of the early days of Skype, and how they expanded the voice business. They got people to talk simply by virtue of being free, even if the app wasn’t perfect. Skype nicely opened up the consumer market, which translated well into the business market. That pattern is set to repeat with regard to messaging apps, and this will complement the impact of email.
It’s also predicted that more and more users will be moving away from voice altogether, given that by 2025 around 75 percent of the workforce will be digital natives and will have grown up in a world where the iPhone and Android have always existed. Not only has this market already started moving away from voice to text communication, but they’re also eschewing the desk phones for mobility and convenience.
Granted, much of the data presented here is consumer-driven, yet generally speaking, the overarching trend is clear. The consumer experiences are working their way into the business environment, so it makes sense that the messaging trend follows the same pattern. Just the same way that Skype grew the pie for voice communication, messaging will do the same for text communication. Employees love it because it’s fast, easy, and they’re used to it in their personal lives. Businesses love messaging because it’s cheaper than voice. Much cheaper than voice.
When short and sweet is what you’re looking for, messaging can bring a lot of value to your business. Examined in that light, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp makes much sense. Maybe it won’t be a player in the business space in the next year or two, but it’s clear the world is shifting to shorter, starker forms of communication. It’s also obvious that the Millennials don’t mind that it lacks the personal touch or warmth of voice or other more archaic forms of communication. But like other things, there are compromises to be made when innovation comes. If messaging isn’t part of your UC plan, then you’d better not blink. You might miss the biggest thing since sliced bananas.