The growing popularity of consumer messaging apps like WeChat and Facebook Messenger is quickly infiltrating business. Just like mobile devices, consumers are now bringing their preferred communication platforms into the workplace, adding convenience for them but headaches and security scares for employers.
Companies need to ask themselves, “Are we comfortable with our sensitive customer information, employees’ HR data or patient diagnostic information being out there on public messaging platforms? What will it mean for our brand and intellectual property if it gets into the wrong hands?”
The familiarity with messaging is resulting in employees using their own personal messaging apps to communicate with co-workers, partners, clients and other stakeholders. But allowing consumer messaging apps to be used as business communication tools is like signing up for a data breach.
While businesses should want to provide their users – employees and customers – with communications tools that they are familiar with and prefer, security is a paramount consideration. Businesses need to actively manage the rise in messaging as a communication channel and determine the right solution for their business, employees and customers.
Four key considerations
There are four key considerations business owners should take to safely take advantage of mobile messaging technology to have safe, meaningful conversations with users and employees.
1. Ensure security of sensitive data
Since business, customer and employee data are proprietary and often offer a competitive advantage, it’s important to ensure the right levels of end-to-end encryption to stay ahead of a hack or attack.
2. Maintain privacy of user information
Most users don’t realize that consumer messaging apps don’t offer the privacy protections they assume are in place. As most of these solutions rely on public cloud infrastructure, all sensitive conversations stored on their servers could potentially be viewed by anyone who has access to them. The only way to ensure a stronger level of privacy protection is to consider deploying the messaging infrastructure on-premises behind your firewall or within your private cloud.
3. Plan for auditing and compliance
For all businesses, especially those in regulated industries, access to and reporting of all messaging data is a must for auditing and compliance reasons. Both B2C and B2E conversations require storage of messaging data and greater security and control to meet governance, compliance and audit requirements.
4. Don’t compromise on user experience
If businesses want to ensure data stays secure and any negative feedback is received via a private forum, then they need to provide an easy way for employees and customers to connect on their platform, on their terms. As rigid security policies can tend to get in the way of user experience, businesses must carefully choose a messaging solution that compliments and enhances their mobile strategy and satisfies both users and IT.
Customer demand has dictated that mobile messaging is here to stay. When set up securely, messaging solutions that support in-app chat, surveys and polls offer a great way to take advantage of mobile as a platform for driving user productivity and satisfaction. If businesses keep in mind the security considerations outlined above, they are more likely to achieve the right balance between security and user satisfaction.
Alfred Chuang is the founder and chief executive officer of Andreessen Horowitz-backed Magnet Systems, which is simplifying the entire process of developing and deploying enterprise mobile apps. Previously, he co-founded middleware company BEA Systems Inc. in 1995 and served as its president and chief executive officer until it was purchased by Oracle in 2008.