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Enterprise messaging services fight to make themselves heard, but are they doomed already?

Jon Gold | May 14, 2014
Odds are, you probably don't communicate with friends and family the same way you did a decade ago. The rise of the text message and the fall of the phone call as ways to stay in touch has been precipitous, even if the centrality of email has been unquestioned for far longer than 10 years.

One of CoTap's customers, content marketing startup InPowered, has found that to be the truth. InPowered employs 50 people in two offices, situated in San Francisco and New York. It has been using Cotap as a supplement — not a replacement — for email as a method of internal communications for four months.

The company's head of communications, Robb Henshaw, says that, in addition to the basics, like companywide announcements and lunch orders, Cotap is the main platform for brief but important interactions — time-sensitive yes-or-no questions, for example.

"All of our functional teams use it to eliminate a lot of the stuff that just doesn't need to happen over email," Henshaw says. "We're not trying to replace email — I don't think email's going anywhere — I do think there's a lot of communication that happens in the long-form medium of email that absolutely doesn't belong there."

A lot of communication was done by text before InPowered went with Cotap, he added.

"Which was fine, you get quicker responses that way, so that's great," says Henshaw. "But there's things we couldn't really talk about because we knew that texting is inherently just not that secure, and we don't want to be talking company-sensitive stuff over text."

Cotap's higher degree of security made that less of an issue.

It's convenience, however, not security, that brought Legacy IT founder Jamison Russell to the enterprise messaging marketplace. His company, a two-person IT consultancy in central Texas, began using a product called HeyWire Business two months ago.

Coordinating visits and service appointments with the young company's stable of clients was a headache without HeyWire's service."There were a bunch of customers that had my phone number, and then a bunch of customers that had my partner's phone number," Russell says.

HeyWire's cross-platform capabilities — the service can be reached both from a mobile app and from a desktop PC — lent additional flexibility, he added.

"We usually keep a guy in our shop, so we can just pull it up on the browser," Russell says.

HeyWire's founder and CEO, Meredith Flynn-Ripley, says that the multi-platform nature of the service is a key part of its appeal.

Flynn-Ripley started HeyWire in Cambridge, Mass., in 2009, but its business-focused service has been on the market for less than a year. The experience of using traditional messaging systems, according to Flynn-Ripley, imposes limitations on businesses.

"Messaging needs to be multi-platform. It needs to be more mobile-first, frankly, and so traditionally, business messaging has been very IM-, desktop-centric," says Flynn-Ripley, whose company has raised $13 million in venture funding.

That's all well and good, but IDC research manager Vanessa Thompson is skeptical of the prospects of many of this generation of enterprise messaging apps. One critical issue could be bigger companies building similar capabilities into line-of-business products that customers are already using — making dedicated solutions redundant.


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