SAN FRANCISCO, USA: To add ‘Hip’ to ‘Chat’ is much more than an exercise in technology-tonsorial art. Specially when early birds like Slack have caught worms of viral user adoption and UI adhesiveness. Or when challengers like Ryver, Fleep, Jostle, Azendoo, open-source Rocket etc have entered the fray with their own radical offerings.
They say that the good thing about being a second mouse is that one gets the cheese. So, perhaps the trap of inadequate scalability, rigor, uptime, reliability, control, security along with clutter and integration issues, is what new players in the fiercely-ticking collaboration market get to skirt. In a way, this makes the cheese of a bigger, more profitable market – that of enterprise penetration – much more delicious and worth the wait.
That would insinuate that players other than Slack are second in row, and also that they are after the big cheese or shall we say, the big enchilada. Let’s check those assumptions in a conversation with Rahul Asave, Principal Product Manager, Atlassian. Alongside, we find out if the hip-ness is indeed about being enterprise-relevant and how much is it working?
What’s different about HipChat in a market flooded with chat/messaging and collaboration toys?
That’s the difference - we are more than chat. We are at another level and beyond individuals. The individual-to-individual characteristic of chats is where others are gathered but we have focused on business teams and that too, from grounds up. To add to that, we bring in SaaS, behind-the-firewalls comfort too as well as control for admins to enable the turn-on/off scenarios as per legal and regulatory needs. We have lots of enterprise customers ranging across hospitality, research, science, financial verticals.
What’s the problem that such solutions have solved that erstwhile planks like Unified Communications or email could not?
For one, we are quintessentially grounds-up. There was nothing ‘unified’ about unified communications. HipChat brings communication on a single platform with visibility and action-ability over various data, applications to teams. There is context and pace to information now. That actually helps team collaboration in the real world and drives productivity in the practical sense.
Think of Chat-ops, workflow and other such possibilities and compare that to the speed of email, and you would know that when every information piece is inside the same room, the pace is amazingly breakthrough. Things move so much faster. People do not just share information or chat. With HipChat, teams can take actions.
That capability also covers versioning or document management which is often vital for an office scenario?
The admin control feature covers so much of that, as per information security requirements. If you look at the user side, Atlassian has solutions like Confluence which can come in with HipChat and help version control or document management. HipChat, as a platform, covers all such needs.
So, the enterprise cred gives you an USP? How strong is that when Slack is popular for its UI and adoption footprint or Ryver is cracking aspects like pricing in a unique way?
We are different from Slack and Ryver. We are able to offer enterprises many new choices. The option of deployment between cloud and server, for instance, makes a lot of difference for some enterprises with unique legal requirements or control needs. We also have a marketplace for add-on features. Our pricing is transparent and enterprises can choose and deploy features as per their unique needs.
How has the enterprise market responded so far?
We have achieved considerable scale with some large number and names in terms of customer base, including those on the cloud platform as well as those deploying inside a data centre. The admin use of many features is giving that much-needed room for IT to align to information security needs and other industry requirements. We are in there for enterprises. Atlassian, per se, is becoming a platform for big enterprises and when they use HipChat along with other product lines, they get to seize the actual power of collaboration.
Are collaboration tools not facing their own endemic issues? Have you confronted kinks like noise, clutter, control, time-wastage, distractions etc. too?
Yes, all those things do affect productivity. We are focused on bringing in lots of control for the user so that effective filters and caps on noise can happen. There is a difference between chat and work discussion and we are cognizant of that.
So why won't chat-rooms fizz out soon? Are we not riding on a fad till the next big thing comes over?
It is the next stage in a bigger evolution. Instead of individuals talking to each other, as seen in the messaging trend, now teams can talk, collaborate and work towards action. That helps a lot in a space where cross-functional teams are becoming hot. The biggest obstacle to the trend was that it was all about individuals but now that it is moving to teams, work gets re-imagined. Weeks change to days and days are changing to hours.