Email out, Slack and Teams in for business communications

For the first time, more respondents indicate a preference for instant messaging, says SWZD

The COVID-19 pandemic may trigger the end of email's dominance in business communications.

That's the word from Spiceworks Ziff Davis (SWZD), which today published its first quarter report on the state of communications software in the workplace.

For the first time since it started measuring in 2016, a slim majority of respondents (51 percent) said real-time communication apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams were their preferred method for internal communication.

If 51 percent doesn't seem like a lot, it's worth mentioning that the same question asked in 2020 elicited a 37 percent positive response, and the year prior only 31 percent said they preferred messaging to email.

According to SWZD Head of Technology Insights Peter Tsai, the growth of real-time communications apps as critical to work has been slow, but it has been coming on for some time.

"Now with a large majority of workers using these tools frequently and 'digitally native' workers increasingly entering the workforce, we can expect employee preferences to continue to shift away from email to these more interactive platforms," Tsai said.

Adoption is stalling

Unsurprisingly, the study found a sudden spike in the adoption of web conferencing and chat apps in 2020. That spike is now leveling off, with adoption holding steady. According to SWZD, companies are looking less to add new software, and more to improve the communications stack they've recently invested in. 

For vendors, this means integrating additional features into their platforms to meet what the report said is a growing desire for "all-encompassing" communications software, which 51 percent of respondents said their organizations now prefer. 

That's good for support staff, SWZD argued: a multitude of tools for VoIP, email, instant messaging, and video conferencing has led to a third of IT professionals reporting regularly having to deal with end-user difficulties, and 37 percent saying that they've caught employees using unauthorized communication software outside of IT's control.

Vendors have an opportunity, too, the report said. As businesses increasingly confront the problems caused by multiple, disconnected products, they'll be looking to consolidate, and dissatisfaction with current tools is something vendors can learn from to improve their own user satisfaction and retention. ®

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