San Jose-based 8x8 has added team chat capabilities to its unified communications platform, touting interoperability with 23 other collaboration as a differentiating factor in a competitive market. Among the chat apps supported are Slack, Google Hangouts Chat, Skype, Twitter, Cisco Webex Teams and Jabber.
The Team Messaging function, announced last week, is included in 8x8's existing X Series software, which combines video, voice and contact center applications.
8x8's tool is essentially a chat client designed to serve as an alternative to email for communication and collaboration. It enables automated deployments across organizations, adding users from global business directories.
Users create public or private chat rooms for group conversations. Public rooms support chat between internal and external users, with content accessible and searchable by any staff member within an organization. Private rooms allow confidential content to be easily shared between finance and legal teams, for instance.
Prices for the X Series suite start at $28 per user per month but can go as high as $175 per user a month. Prices vary based on the number of countries users can call, and the length of time those calls last. The team messaging is available at all levels of X Series service.
The ability to connect with other team collaboration apps makes the 8x8 platform unique, the company argued. That’s important because many companies have multiple chat applications in use; 8x8 officials pointed to a June survey of IT professionals by No Jitter that suggests 91% of businesses rely on two or much chat apps.
Interoperability between different apps means that workers can remain in their tool of choice while communicating. This is the case for messages sent to external partners – such as agencies and freelancers – who would otherwise have to set up an account for the same chat app if they did not already have one.
8x8 CEO Vik Verma points to his own use of the company’s team messaging app to connect with various board members that use a variety of chat apps.
“By creating this one common room, [8x8} has allowed the guy in Princeton University [using Slack] to communicate with a hedge fund manager who has basically standardized on Google Hangouts, and the only common thread is that I have the 8x8 app that connects everything together,” he said.
There are internal uses, too. For example, while a sales team may rely on Salesforce's Chatter for discussing leads, the legal or accounting division might use another platform. The 8x8 team messaging app allows conversations between those disparate teams without either side having to change apps.
8x8 pointed to Colorado-based SCA Appraisal, an insurance firm that uses Slack for some departments and 8x8's team messaging in others.
“With 8x8 they are able to have a public room where they can invite contributors to participate to solve challenges,” said Meghan Keogh, vice president for product marketing at 8x8. “And those folks that want to operate inside Slack can operate inside Slack, but they are able to collaborate in real-time with the front-line agents who are using 8x8 team messaging.”
The feature follows 8x8'slast year. Tight integration with Sameroom's technology enables connections between 8x8's team messaging tool and other applications.
Notable by omission is Microsoft's collaboration app, Teams. Asked about that, Keogh said: "We're actively engaged with Microsoft working on building an integrated offering."
Overall, the company hopes it platform provides “complete and comprehensive communications…,” said Verma. “Then[8x8 can] provide context and dashboards to our customers so that they can have knowledge of what is going on in the enterprise from a communications perspective.”
Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC, said that by crafting a team messaging app the unified communications vendor has “stepped up its game in a competitive collaborative space.”
“The ease of connecting rooms between groups or even companies is a plus,” he said. “They even found a reasonable way of minimizing noise in chat. This is their new starting point, and their infrastructure will allow for unique advantages to grow in their ecosystems, especially as they continue to deepen their partnerships and integrations.”
He added: “The challenge is will enterprises consider an alternative in their cloud tech stack?”