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Will messaging apps replace email?

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 17 May 2021

ICAEW Insights examines the rise of multifunctional messaging apps businesses are adopting to stay ahead of the technology curve, and what this could mean for the world of work.

In the final part of its “Drawing blueprints for the future workplace” series, ICAEW Insights speaks with Ashley Friedlein, CEO of Guild, a messaging app aimed at the professional market. He believes messaging as a medium is growing exponentially, often at the expense of email.

“There's a lot of evidence to show that messaging, messaging apps and mobile activity is growing; probably the fastest growth of any medium at the moment”, said Friedlein. “And that's partly because it's quick, easy and convenient, but also because younger generations are entering the workforce and they’re more used to messaging than email.”

Messaging app growth is now outpacing social networks, with consumer communication dominated by messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat. In 2019, an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide (87% of smartphone users) were using a mobile messaging app at least once per month, according to eMarketer. The surge in mobile messaging app users is expected to increase to three billion by 2022.

Does email still have a position in the workplace?

Friedlein believes that the growing popularity of messaging apps is, in part, down to the fact that new tools are exploiting shortfalls in email and boosting business productivity - for example, email’s inability to be used effectively for project management. Friedlein says if a team is working on a project, “email is eaten into by technology platforms that are specifically engineered to manage that kind of collaboration, such as Microsoft Teams and Slack”. 

There is also a messaging ability within these workflow platforms that is replacing what also used to be an email conversation. According to Microsoft Worklab statistics, time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally and, aside from a holiday dip in December, continues to climb.

“Email is not going to go away completely, but it is certainly being challenged by messaging apps and other workflow, project management and collaboration technology platforms,” added Friedlein.

What is Guild?

Friedlein describes Guild as a messaging platform for professional communities who share a common interest or area of expertise. They communicate, network and collaborate on things, operating a bit like WhatsApp’s communications, in some degree of community. However, unlike many messaging apps currently in use for personal communication, Friedlein says Guild is legally set up for professional use, covering complex issues such as GDPR and moderation.

Friedlein says that Guild has all of the benefits of messaging (intimacy, speed, ease of use on mobiles) but it is properly private, professional, and compliant with all the necessary legislation, which accountants need to comply with.

He continued: “It's a professional-grade tool and platform with all the things you'd expect in terms of compliance and support and service and audit trails of conversation and user data. All of which is very important to accountants and accountancy firms because they have to have those high professional standards.”

The future looks flexible

Looking at what new technology could mean for the future workplace, Friedlein said he believes greater flexibility will play a huge part.

“The future is going to be flexible in terms of the number of days that people work in the office versus remotely. Quite a lot of organisations are talking about two or three days in the office and the rest out of the office, so this is flexible in terms of when you’re expected to be physically present”, he said.

With regards to flexibility in technology and work setup, there's hot-desking and using cloud-based technologies. But also, collaboration tools, for example, Slack and Microsoft Teams which enable work to be completed flexibly. Using these tools employees can ultimately work from anywhere in the world on whatever devices.

“I also think when it comes to recruitment, businesses won’t just be exploring the national talent but also looking to tap up international talent to get the best possible person for the job”, explained Friedlein. “As a result, the way professionals will network will become more globalised as well. This is an important part of professional services: for example, accountants can build client relationships and tap into other areas of expertise, or peers that they might need to work with (such as lawyers, bankers, consultants) on a more global and digital scale”. 

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