The Gatehouse Blog

State of the Sector 2019 – Digital channels

This year’s State of the Sector shows that the growth of digital channels has created more complexity and noise. simply-communicate’s Marc Wright shares his views.

What’s your biggest takeaway?

simply-communicate has been publishing the results of State of the Sector for years. In the past few years, we’ve observed the explosion of digital channels. While intranets, e-newsletters and email announcements still rule in terms of usage, things like chatbots and messaging platforms are slowly beginning to emerge; although still used by a very small percentage of respondents, they are considered highly effective by those who use them. The challenge with these new channels is that they are very difficult to implement correctly.

Interestingly, intranets are quite low down the ‘effectiveness’ list. High usage, low satisfaction. Clearly, we’re seeing a lot people overhauling their intranets because they are not getting any value out of them. Office 365 has improved massively, which makes it a lot easier for people to get a decent intranet without a huge investment.

Mobile apps are considered slightly more effective, probably because they have a more specific purpose. Most mobile apps only date back from three or four years, so the technology is a lot better.

Our State of the Sector 2017 report highlighted the ‘Office 365’ effect, with Microsoft dominating the digital landscape in most organisations. Yet the use of Yammer has declined from 57% in 2017 to 37% this year. Why is that?

85% of our members are using Office 365. Yammer is  clearly the weakest link of the Microsoft suite. For a long time, Microsoft didn’t invest in it, but that is going to change this year.  The  success of Workplace by Facebook has been largely down to the lack of investment in Yammer. I think that we’re going to see Yammer really come from behind to rival the user experience of Slack and Workplace by Facebook.

Do you think Workplace by Facebook can catch up?

Workplace by Facebook provides a great user experience. Everybody instantly knows how to use it. The problem is that it cannot work on its own; it does not integrate with your filing system, or with Office 365 that most people now have. Most of our members who have rolled it out love it, particularly for its ability to reach their front-line staff, but you can’t use it for knowledge management.

In addition, the reputational damage that Facebook has gone through in the past year has caused a lot of organisations to worry about data protection. Even though the platform is totally secure and safe, many executives would rather not take any risk.

When asked about their perception of social channels, 74% of respondents this year felt that they are just OK and need a lot more investment. A further 14% say that they are terrible and should be discontinued. Is that not a scary finding?

We see this “Love it or hate it” kind of mentality a lot. When you use the word ‘social’ with leaders, they immediately think about puppies, the swim club, the buy and sell. Many push back on these channels because they see them as a distraction and want people to be focusing on the work.

We tend to talk about collaborative channels instead. The reputation of these channels inside an organisation is important.

Another key finding of the report is that internal communicators have limited involvement in the roll out of technology. Quite often, the decisions about digital platforms is with the IT department.

Less and less. IT has had technology to themselves for so long, and they’ve failed to reach good levels  of adoption. As a result, CEOs are increasingly looking towards internal communicators to help with adoption.

“85% of our members are using Office 365. Yammer is clearly the weakest link of the Microsoft suite. For a long time, Microsoft didn’t invest in it, but that is going to change this year.”


Biography: Marc Wright

Just a few years ago, digital was this brave new world full of promise for internal communicators – better targeting, personalisation, instant circulation of messages. Yet, this year’s edition of State of the Sector shows that the multiplication of digital channels has created more complexity and noise.