Messaging applications are becoming an important part of our daily lives. While platforms like Facebook Messenger or Snapchat are serving hundreds of millions of active users, technologies like Slack or Hipchat are becoming very common in enterprise environments. In both the consumer and enterprise scenarios, messaging applications are expanding its focus from being standalone solutions to complete platforms that provide messaging capabilities for other applications.
While this evolution from tools to platforms can be seen as relatively obvious in the consumer market, it has certainly come up as a surprise in the enterprise space. In the last few months, we have seen companies start developing business models around build applications for popular messaging stacks such as Slack or HipChat. Just in the last few weeks, there have been some relevant developments in the space:
- Blockspring, a venture backed company that specializes in expanding Excel with integrations to line of business systems announced a new integration model with Slack. With the new model, Blockspring makes it easy to build bots that can pull in data from outside services and answer questions from right within your chat window.
- Atlassian announced a beefed-up app store for its HipChat messaging productthat lets you embed apps straight into any of its chat rooms.
- Howdy, recently raised $1.5M to focus on building apps for Slack.
All these new developments have raised an interesting level of debate within VCs and analysts circles about the viability of embedded messaging apps as a new enterprise software trend.
5 Reasons Why Embedded Messaging Apps Might Work
Solving the Distribution Problem in the Enterprise
The main value proposition of embedded messaging apps is that they will be available via established distribution channels such as Slack or HipChat. Distribution, is one of the hardest problems to solve in enterprise software as every major organizations gets daily bombarded with new product offerings for any imaginable problem. By building on platforms with a large enterprise audience like Slack or HipChat, embedded messaging apps can leverage a well-established distribution channel.
Bringing the App to the Collaboration Engine Instead of Collaboration to the App
Collaboration has been one of most popular buzzwords in the enterprise software ecosystem for the last decade. In the traditional approach to enterprise collaboration, line of business systems have started to build collaborative capabilities within their stacks. Although relevant, these capabilities are not comparable with complete collaboration platforms like Slack or HipChat. Embedded messaging apps offers an interesting alternative to that model in which the apps are built on top of an existing collaboration and messaging engine. In this new model, the users will start leveraging applications in the context of a collaboration exercise within a messaging platform. I find this new approach incredibly intriguing.
Simple Command Interface
Embedded messaging apps facilitate the integration with line of business systems using simple commands. Those commands can be composed to achieve more complex tasks. For instance, you could issue a command requesting recent leads from Salesforce.com and another command that exports those leads into a Google Spreadsheet. That simple command experience could become an easier and intuitive model for users to interact with enterprise systems for simple tasks.
Bringing Embedded Messaging Apps Directly into Line of Business Systems
Today’s embedded messaging apps are exclusively used within a messaging platform like Slack or HipChat. In the future, we can think of leveraging embedded messaging apps directly from line of business systems such as Salesforce.com or Marketo. In that scenario, you can imagine a user exploring recent leads in Marketo and using that information to start a Slack conversation with his colleagues directly from the Marketo portal.
Capture Collective Knowledge about Line of Business Records
One of the top value proposition of embedded messaging apps is that they can capture collective knowledge about specific line of business records. The interactions and collaborations about specific data sources in Slack or HipChat can be captured in the specific line of business systems for future references.
Are Embedded Messaging Apps a Viable Business Model?
Despite the excitement about embedded messaging apps, the main question remains whether they can become a viable business model within the enterprise software space. While messaging platforms like Slack and HipChat are enjoying a great adoption in the enterprise, they are still far from becoming completely mainstream. Additionally, embedded messaging apps will have to deal with the risks of being dependent on a third party platform which make them subject to new distribution policies, financial agreements etc.
Regardless of whether embedded messaging apps will become a relevant trend in enterprise software, we can all agree is a very intriguing one.