WhatsApp, the popular messaging app for consumers, has also found its way into workplace communications because of of its ease of use — whether IT like the idea or not.
Now, WhatsApp is highlighting plans to introduce Communities, a new way bring together multiple group chats in one place, alongside new admin capabilities to ease management of conversations. The Communities plan was part of an update unveiled last week.
Each WhatsApp Community hosts multiple group chats around a topic, for example, a parents group at a school, a team of humanitarian aid workers or a restaurant staff, WhatsApp said in a blog post. In that sense, a WhatsApp Community mimics a workspace in Slack and other messaging apps that are aimed at use by office workers, providing real-time communications that are less cumbersome than email.
Admins will be able to create and manage Communities by either forming new groups or linking pre-existing ones. They will also be able to unlink groups, remove individuals from a Community, and delete inappropriate messages if needed.
To limit unnecessary distractions, only admins will be able to send Community-wide messages: these can be sent for up “several thousand” users, WhatsApp said.
Other, more general group-chat updates, include an increase in file sharing capacity up to 2GB, redesigned one-tap calling for up to 32 participants, and emoji reactions.
The changes allow for more streamlined administration and management of the different groups, said Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at CCS Insight.
“WhatsApp Communities is most likely to be of interest to small businesses rather than large enterprises, but the simplicity of the app — and its familiarity among employees, whatever size of business they work in — means that this new capability will only expand WhatsApp's adoption across the business market,” said Ashenden.
Meta, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014, has gradually been adding to the app’s business communication capabilities, with the launch of WhatsApp Business, a premium service that lets small companies connect with customers more effectively.
Earlier this year, Meta announced plans to integrate WhatsApp with its enterprise collaboration product, Workplace, an acknowledgement of the role the messaging app plays for many frontline workers. Ashenden noted that the popularity of WhatsApp can create a headache for IT teams.
CCS Insight’s Employee Workplace Technology Survey 2022, showed that 31 per cent of employees already use WhatsApp regularly for work purposes. Meanwhile, the analyst firm’s Senior Leadership IT Investment Survey 2021 indicated that almost two thirds of senior leaders (63 per cent) consider communications tools such as WhatsApp a key concern area for shadow IT in their businesses.
“This is something that causes significant concern for CISOs for regulatory reasons — particularly in the context of GDPR around the way data about clients is stored,” said Ashenden.
WhatsApp said Communities is currently in development: “It’s early days for Communities on WhatsApp and building the new features to support them will be a major focus of ours for the year to come,” the company said.