Everybody is using WhatsApp somewhere in the business, and if they say they’re not, they probably still are. This is especially true in Europe, however not so much the case in the US. There it’s a different story because they’re more likely to use other consumer products such as Facebook Messenger. Tom Arbuthnot, who works with clients and colleagues in the US, said he is surprised that some of his US counterparts don’t even use WhatsApp in their personal life, whereas it’s so prevalent in Europe.
WhatsApp, however, has certain limitations and concerns for organizations. For large companies, this is particularly concerning, and as a result, many have gotten rid of WhatsApp in the company and have even gone as far as to state it is forbidden to be used on any company devices.
Although this may come across shocking, this isn’t unusual. It’s mostly not ‘blessed’ across most organizations, and it’s just become a tool that everyone uses. The main problem with WhatsApp is that it’s tied to your mobile number, and things like GDPR and ISO have big conflicts with this.
We hear stories all the time about people leaving businesses and not being taken out of the WhatsApp group. The big issue with this is that they’re now accessing privileged information and they shouldn’t be. There’s no essential ‘Admin overhead’ to manage WhatsApp, and that’s what’s the crux of the problem is.
The other problem is discoverability if you get a GDPR or information access request, how do you get into WhatsApp to get the information out? If people are using it for business use, there is a genuine GDPR security risk around the data being accessed by people who shouldn’t, and the discoverability of data.
Another issue stemmed from this is the data residence because you don’t know where the data is being stored in WhatsApp. There’s no central storage in WhatsApp, which in theory is ‘good’, however people backup their chats to their personal iCloud or Google. So now Google has a copy of that data, Apple has a copy of that data, and if you have customer contracts that say you look after their data, you haven’t said to them that Google and Apple have a copy of that and it’s in personal consumer storage.
Tom’s organization, Modality Systems, is a Microsoft Collaboration Partner, so they predominantly use Skype and Teams. They do try and use this as much as possible and this is heavily enforced because they do managed services and consulting, meaning they have to sign agreements with their customers about how they're looking after their data. Because it’s an agreement with an external party you have to take this very seriously about how you manage their data.
Where are the advantages of Microsoft Teams vs. WhatsApp
In Sigi’s team, when they’re at big conferences like Ignite, they create a channel where his team uploads and store all their data and pictures from the event. His team feels the Teams client is much better than WhatsApp because you can upload a real picture, whereas in WhatsApp it’s automatically compressed.
However, the architecture in Teams means that the pictures are stored in Lists, as opposed to OneDrive, so getting the pictures out is a different story. You then have to right-click, save as and so on.
The big thing is people that aren’t part of your tenant, so with WhatsApp because it’s tied to phone numbers, if you’ve got a marketing contractor working with you at Ignite or say you’re working with two companies, it’s so easy to have a single WhatsApp group, whereas with Teams you have to have either guest access or give users identities, which is an area we’ll see improvements in Teams. Which is how do you bring disparate tenants into a seamless conversation more easily?
There is a free Teams client where you can sign up just using your phone number. Kaizala has a phone number identity and can be described as kind-of-like an enterprise WhatsApp, with similar types of features but a superset. What Microsoft has publicly said is that Kaizala and Teams are going to merge into one product, so you would anticipate that the story about phone number-based identity, first-line workers, contractors will come closer together.
For Tom, the bottom line is about data security and your customer. Although WhatsApp is easier, ultimately you should be using the platform that is secure and corporately compliant, which is Teams, even if it means tenant switching.
It’s a big discussion which isn’t going away anytime soon, and we’ll see, particularly in Europe, where we take data and security seriously, some issues around not just WhatsApp but many consumer products being used in the enterprise and that will shift peoples minds further. Once a few fines and data leaks happen, that will bring it up on everyone’s agenda.
What conversations should you be having with your users?
Should they not be allowed to use WhatsApp at all? The simplest way to put it is that if it’s work it should be on Teams, where it’s controlled, discoverable and in the boundaries of compliance. If it’s personal, by all means, use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and whatever else you want to use.
There are currently more than 100 million Teams users active, which is just the beginning as there is 180 million Office 365 users, meaning we’re still at the start of the curb of Teams adoption.
The free version also brings much more to the audience, so there needs to be more education there. A big part of the education is giving users access to this stuff and not too tightly controlling it. Users like WhatsApp and DropBox because they can do whatever they want with it, if you lock Teams down so much that they can’t get their job done, they’ll naturally gravitate to consumer products. So actually, it’s an education for both users and IT.
You can’t make it 7 days to create a Team, and there is a restricted policy, and you have to tick all the boxes because your users will just go and find the easy route to get their job done.
If you compare it to the Skype for Business mobile client, Teams is leaps and bounds more advanced. For example, if you’re in transit, in and out of public transport you can use Teams, whereas Skype could never cope with the disconnect and reconnect. So there are fewer arguments from users about its usability, but habitually through using the tool often they go to WhatsApp. The important takeaway is to educate users about the risk, so do they want the company to get fined? Do they want data to be leaked? Do they want to lose big customer contracts? You're making the choice that could influence that.
The biggest benefit of all is that you have all your mobile data in one place, in one app, on your mobile phone. You open Teams, and all your work is there, so that’s another factor to highlight if you’re discouraging people from using WhatsApp in your organization.
Want to find out more about how to manage Microsoft Teams more effectively in your environment? Check out this guide How to get your Team on ‘Teams'.
Siegfried is a Microsoft MVP for Office Apps and Services. He has great expertise in Office 365 implementations with a special focus on Security, Messaging and Identity for international customers.