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How IT can limit the risk of popular messaging apps

Matt Kapko | Aug. 19, 2016
CIOs have battled shadow IT for years, long before the advent of messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Here's how a set of IT pros makes the most of the latest challenge.

CIOs should try to gauge how often messaging apps are used in their organizations, according to Preset. "Even a little quantitative information is better than no information and bad assumptions," he says.

Once IT leaders understand why employees use certain apps, they can begin to cultivate an organized culture with guidelines meant to promote responsible behavior, according to Preset. IT leaders should remind workers where confidential conversations should be kept, update communication policies and pay special attention to groups or individuals that manage critical information. "Communication is like water," Preset says. "It flows via the path of least resistance."

Many of Gartner's clients use consumer messaging apps for internal business communications, and according to the company's recent research, WhatsApp is the most popular in the enterprise. As such, it is also the target of the most concern among IT professionals. "CIOs will tell us their teams find [WhatsApp] effective so, on the one hand, they want to know if it can be validated and permitted," Preset says. "On the other, CIOs recognize that they can't see what's happening in that platform. CIOs and their enterprises bear all the risk without any visibility or control."

At Nextiva, Lesavoy knows many of the company's workers use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, but he says his IT staff can't keep tabs on these apps on personal devices. "We focus on keeping our team members engaged and busy so they have less time to spend on messaging apps." 

Instead of blocking these apps completely, the best option for IT is often to promote best practices that mitigate the associated risk. And though Facebook, WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps can prove to be problematic, it's the lesser-known options and the newcomers that worry Lesavoy. "The apps that concern me the most today are the apps that we don't know about yet," he says. "Technology is evolving so rapidly that it's very difficult to predict what is coming, and the uncertainty is hard to plan for."


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