Millennials are twice as likely to use unapproved collaboration apps in the workplace

As collaboration tools like Slack and Teams become more popular, collaboration across the enterprise will inevitably evolve, and companies need to be strategic about deployment.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

There continues to be a shift in the way we work. The rise of workplace messaging platforms, like Slack and other workplace platforms, means an increase in employee productivity for sure.

But there are differences in perception in the way that IT and users feel about the raft of software tools -- and users often communicate in the way they prefer -- without IT's knowledge.

Bellevue, WA-based collaboration platform management company Unify Square has released a report in partnership with Osterman Research on the unified communication habits of millennials and the growing IT vs. end-user discord.

It wanted to understand how end users are employing these applications and the benefits they see from their use.

It surveyed 600 end-users across three age groups working in large organizations to understand how IT is managing this set of applications.

Users have been using their apps to improve productivity for a while.

Tied down by over-restrictive IT policies that often prevent innovation. Users started to use MSN Messenger to quickly communicate with teammates long before Microsoft introduced its Unified Communications suite in the early 2000s.

Many organizations are handicapped and unable to compete against more technologically agile competitors. Enterprise companies often have complex, legacy technologies, and applications that were often designed for specific needs but now lack interoperability.

Workstream collaboration apps like Slack, Microsoft, Google, and Zoom have been adopted across the workplace, yet users often eschew these official apps for their own 'watercooler' set of tools.

Why? Productivity gains. The workplace problem that good technology is best able to solve is productivity, yet companies are slow to adopt innovations.

End-users rely on a different set of unapproved applications, often not using the official collaboration and communication apps that IT teams have deployed.

The survey shows a disparity between what IT believes its users want, and what users think. IT believes that 44% of users are "very satisfied" with these apps, and 47% are "somewhat" satisfied. However, users themselves report satisfaction levels at 51% and 34%, respectively.

Millennials are 1.5-times more likely to use unapproved apps for collaboration than other generations. This could be the reason why Slack is so popular.

Slack is being used more by millennials than any other age group within organizations. According to a recent survey by Akumina, Slack is ranked as the second-best productivity tool by millennial managers

Almost a third (28%) of millennials report using unapproved apps two to four-times per week, and 71% -- nearly three in four -- reported using unapproved apps at least a few times per year.

Microsoft Skype for Business and Teams are reported to be users' preferred platforms at 59% and 48%, respectively. However, only half of the end-users prefer Skype for Business, and 34% report preferring Teams.

Millennials are twice as likely to use unapproved collaboration apps in the workplace zdnet
Unify Square

Millennials use apps like Slack, Zoom, and Workplace by Facebook more frequently compared to older age groups. Over one in five (20.8%) of millennials are using Slack, compared to 8.8% of Gen Xers and 4.8% of baby boomers.

Zoom is used by almost one in five (19.6%) of millennials, compared to 11% of Gen Xers, and 8% of baby boomers.

Social media is part of day-to-day life for the majority of the workforce -- 87% of coworkers are connected on Facebook, according to Igloo Software's 2019 State of the Digital Workforce report, and they are demanding employers incorporate those experiences into their jobs.

The survey reflects this trend: 13.3% of millennials use Workplace by Facebook -- the natural compromise -- compared to 7.6% of Gen Xers, and 4.8% of baby boomers. 

Scott Gode, chief product marketing officer, Unify Square said: 

"Many of these apps don't share information, causing "islands" of communication and collaboration to form, negating much of the benefit of using apps that should be better than email at enabling users' productivity.

IT needs to shift from 'command and control' to 'trust, but verify' for organizations deploying WSC platforms to realize the greatest value from their investments."

Traditional methods of working still reign supreme. Email continues to be a popular tool for collaboration and communication across workers who have spent their entire working career battling to get to inbox zero.

There are so many tools on the market that enable real-time chat, voice, and video collaboration today that enable organizations to collaborate and share knowledge. Companies should use them -- but ensure that the entire organization has one default collaboration system. 

Is it email's turn for innovation? New collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams can overwhelm in large organisations. Inexperienced team members communicate across threads that quickly become unwieldy, and information is hard to find and follow.

As collaboration tools like Slack and Teams become more and more popular, communication and teamwork in the workplace will inevitably evolve, and companies need to be strategic about how to deploy these tools across their workforce.

The ultimate collaboration tool that does everything that workers want, while satisfying the IT team, is still a long way off.

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