CEO's Corner

Employees’ Use of Consumer Messaging Apps Is a Ticking Time Bomb for Enterprises

Anurag Lal Anurag Lal, President and CEO of Infinite Convergence.

Mobile messaging is must-have technology for communication and productivity in the workplace. But the use of consumer messaging apps in the enterprise is at an all-time high, creating major risks and challenges for organizations across a range of industries.

In fact, the threat posed by employees’ use of consumer messaging technologies is so severe that it’s time to sound the alarm. Why? Because whether you know it or not, consumer messaging apps are ticking time bombs in your enterprise.

The question isn’t whether consumer-grade messaging will create a disaster for your organization (they will). It’s a question of when – and disaster is likely to happen a lot sooner than you think.

How widespread are consumer messaging apps in the workplace?

The modern workforce uses messaging technology to improve communication and develop more collaborative workflows. Since employees are happy with the functionality of their messaging apps, employers often assume that their organizations’ messaging technologies are robust enough for business purposes.

That’s a big – and potentially catastrophic -- mistake. In many cases, employees are relying on messaging apps that were never intended for enterprise communications.

At NetSfere, our most recent Pathfinder report uncovered alarming insights about the use of consumer-grade messaging solutions in today’s enterprise. Here’s what we discovered:

  • Messaging is the primary activity for employees using a smartphone for business purposes. A whopping 73 percent of workers who use a mobile device on the job engage in messaging, outpacing email (66%), voice calls (58%), calendars (42%) and other activities.
  • A majority of employers (58%) allow employees to use personal mobile devices in the workplace. Only 18 percent of employers prohibit the workforce from using a personal device to access corporate email systems.
  • More than a third of IT decision makers harbor serious concerns about managing data growth (37%) and securing corporate and customer data (34%) when employees use mobile messaging apps in the workplace.

Armed with personal mobile devices, record numbers of employees depend on consumer messaging apps for workplace communication. Although employers are generally happy to embrace the benefits of BYOD and messaging, there is a growing awareness that consumer messaging apps create massive risks to customers and the enterprise in general.

Consumer messaging technology introduces several specific risks to the enterprise

Most employers don’t realize how much employees rely on consumer-grade messaging apps to communicate business data and information internally or with outside stakeholders like vendors and clients. Even worse, enterprise employers don’t fully appreciate the risks consumer messaging technologies create for the organization.

  • Security – Security breaches are the most obvious risks associated with consumer-grade messaging. The transmission of highly sensitive data (e.g., customer data, financial records, intellectual property, etc.) via consumer messaging solutions is a disaster waiting to happen. The lack of enterprise-class security protocols increases the likelihood of success for malicious attacks – and a single successful attack is all it takes to bring an enterprise to its knees.
  • Data Exposure – Even more alarming is the potential for a data leak through the theft or loss of a personal device. Since IT has no controls over accounts or information transmitted with consumer-grade apps, a misplaced device can create significant data vulnerabilities. This stands in stark contrast to enterprise messaging apps that offer remote wipe and account management capabilities.
  • Compliance Issues -- Many enterprises are situated in highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance. In these industries, anemic security features and non-existent audit controls are compliance threats that can potentially result in costly fines and other consequences to the organization. Regulations like HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank aren’t even on the radar of consumer-grade messaging apps, so if your employees use messaging technology that isn’t built for the enterprise or your industry, count on the fact that your organization is at risk.
  • Reliability – Consumer messaging apps aren’t nearly as reliable as solutions that have been architected for use in the enterprise. When real-time communication and collaboration is critical, you can’t count on consumer messaging technology to seamlessly deliver messages and files across a geographically diverse user base.

Secure enterprise messaging is the best response to consumer messaging apps

How should your organization respond to the use of consumer messaging apps in the workplace? Prohibiting employees from using mobile messaging as a communications medium isn’t a realistic option. Just ask Deutsche Bank and other organizations that have banned messaging outright.

Instead of improving the organization’s communications ecosystem, a ban is just an admission that the business doesn’t know how to mitigate risk. And guess what? Employees will continue to use consumer-grade messaging apps if you don’t provide a company-sanctioned alternative.

Secure enterprise messaging technology is the right response to the ticking time bomb of consumer-grade messaging because it’s the best defense against security and compliance risks. Furthermore, it adds layers of reliability, control and convenience that aren’t available in the consumer messaging marketplace.

That’s where NetSfere enters the picture. Our secure enterprise messaging service provides a flexible and affordable solution for the mobile messaging condundrum, equipping enterprises with the technology to quickly achieve secure, compliant and reliable messaging.

So here is the bottom line: If your organization continues to rely on consumer messaging apps, you are needlessly exposing your business to serious risks. Get smart. Transition now to a secure enterprise messaging service like NetSfere before time runs out and you’re facing a disaster that you could have easily prevented.