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WhatsApp has become an everyday communication tool for organizations, owing more to its widespread popularity and usage than to any deliberate decision.
However, WhatsApp fails to meet the needs of organizations seeking an effective internal communication tool – not to mention the associated risks with its usage – and is often manipulated to still try and do so despite its limitations.
In what ways does WhatsApp fall short of enabling effective communication?
Communication isn’t measurable
“Did you notify the team? I sent them a message on WhatsApp, not sure who saw it… I’ll ask them to reply.”
Effective communication allows organizations to easily measure message delivery and impact, a challenging task when using WhatsApp. Some organizations try to do this by manually analyzing every single WhatsApp message sent and reviewing the list behind each one. In extreme cases, organizations even document such lists in Excel to confirm their team reviewed the relevant information communicated to them.
Lacks message prioritization
“Apologies, I never saw this update. I see now that it was sent earlier in the thread, and I just didn’t notice.”
On WhatsApp, all messages are treated equally. There is no way to mark messages as ‘priority,’ causing them to easily get lost or overlooked in the ongoing stream of messages. This is a critical shortfall in organizational contexts, where urgent or important updates cannot be ignored.
Lacks conversation history for new team members
“How can I find information that was shared? I just joined the team and don’t have it on my WhatsApp group.”
Whenever organizations experience changes in their team members, they need to add or remove people from their WhatsApp groups. As new team members can’t access conversations from before they joined, important information shared earlier isn’t available to them. On top of that, it’s difficult to keep track of what information was seen by whom, especially when team members join at different times.
Lacks format and structure
“I saw you sent over the information. Do you have a photo of the incident? Did you remember to ask for contact information?”
Sometimes WhatsApp just isn’t the right tool for the job. It’s often used to convey information that should be well-structured and formatted, for instance, when reporting an incident or summarizing a particular event. However, WhatsApp is a free text tool and doesn’t support this, making reporting more tedious, less structured, and less controlled.
Not built for task delegation
“I told you to do so…”
While WhatsApp lets you delegate tasks quickly, a major drawback is the lack of proper task management and documentation. When tasks are assigned via WhatsApp, tracking what was requested and from whom is difficult. In addition, managers have difficulty tracking task progress and completion and maintaining records of them, further resulting in confusion and disorganization.
A manual tool not suitable for scaling
“I’m still waiting on Jamie to remove Josh from the regional supervisors’ group. Did you remove him from all the other WhatsApp groups?”
As WhatsApp is not designed as an organizational communication tool, it lacks essential organizational features. Using it as such therefore requires a lot of manual upkeep. Even basic group member administration becomes challenging when users must be manually removed from groups. Some organizations use Excel spreadsheets to do this, resulting in errors like leaving people out of important groups or keeping them in after their termination.
Overall, the lack of scalability and organizational features make WhatsApp an impractical choice for efficient and error-free communication within large organizations.
Lacks the ability to directly reach the entire team at scale
“Q: How long will it take us to notify the team? A: Well it depends on how quickly our regional managers will pass it along…”
WhatsApp falls short when it comes to cascading information across different organizational levels to all employees. While less of an issue for small teams, information would have to pass through various chat groups to reach frontline teams in larger organizations. And without a reliable way to ensure everyone receives and acknowledges important information, WhatsApp doesn’t allow consistent communication throughout the organization.
“WhatsApp is not intended to serve as an organizational communication tool and is mostly used by organizations out of habit. It falls short in empowering effective communication for organizations due to its limitations and lack of capabilities. We strongly recommend seeking better alternatives for organizations that believe communication is key to their success.”
Amir Nehemia, CEO and Co-founder of Connecteam
Seeking Better Alternatives for Organizational Communication
Understanding what makes communication effective and engaging is crucial when seeking better alternatives. Companies with teams always on the move require a mobile-first solution that caters to the entire team, not just the office-based team. That’s why organizations often turn to WhatsApp nowadays: it is easily accessible to all their frontline workers that feel out of reach.
So what makes an organizational communication platform efficient?
Having a direct channel to your team
Effective communication platforms allow organizations to communicate directly with their entire team without a middleman. An appropriate communication platform, therefore, will enable you to instantly send the right message to the right team without funneling down communication. The ability to quickly segment teams and choose the relevant audience is essential in ensuring the right information reaches the right people.
Catering to diverse communication directions
This includes top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, and peer-to-peer. While the chat function is crucial for day-to-day communication, it is not necessarily the right tool for an employee to address the CEO or encourage peer-to-peer communication on different levels. An effective communication platform will provide organizations different communication tools beyond just chat messaging.
Requiring minimal manual work
To be successful and inclusive of everyone on the team, a communication platform should require minimal manual work from its operators and automate as many processes as possible. However, this is just the baseline. Quality platforms should proactively promote effective communication reducing the burden on the communicator and improving the team’s experience.
Supporting both structured and unstructured communication
While chat is a great way to converse on small everyday things, a more structured approach is often required. Effective communication platforms allow organizations to use predefined structured formats, ensure reporting completion, and reduce the back and forth.
Ensuring message delivery and measuring the impact
By using an effective communication platform, organizations can quickly identify who has received the information and request active confirmation from the team when necessary. It ensures priority messages aren’t lost in the clatter and allows you to close the loop with every employee within minutes instead of days.
Well-governed and controlled
Communication is a big part of every organization’s day-to-day and, as such, should be well administered and controlled. Unlike WhatsApp, effective communication platforms offer the tools, settings, and permissions that allow organizations to oversee and control their communication processes.
Despite the risks associated with WhatsApp, many organizations use it today to communicate with their teams.
As it was never intended to serve as an organizational communication tool, WhatsApp falls short in delivering direct, measurable, effective, and well-governed communication.
Organizations should therefore reconsider their communication goals and explore better alternatives to WhatsApp.
In this light, we invite you to explore Connecteam, a platform designed from the ground up to meet the communication needs of organizations with many team members on the go.