The Business of Secure Messaging Breaking into Business
Messaging applications abound in the consumer space, providing users with a tool for communication equipped with unique features and free services (when connected to WiFi). The enterprise market, on the other hand, and in spite of rampant mobile device adoption over of the past few years, has resisted messaging applications—both consumer and enterprise-grade. Consumer messaging application adoption within the enterprise space faces obvious security concerns and employer hesitation, given the lack of administrative controls. However, even secure messaging applications have struggled as fears of distracting workers from their duties and poor user adoption inhibit investment. Moreover, vendors have largely failed to address these concerns and effectively make their business case.
Exceptions, however, do exist. Most notably, the healthcare industry has slowly come to embrace messaging applications that provide security and enable productivity. With large, mobile workforces and a constant need for communication, hospitals and other healthcare facilities offer fertile ground for secure enterprise messaging applications. Given this advantageous environment, VDC’s finding that secure communication applications are the most widely deployed mobile application among healthcare organizations, with 58 percent currently supporting the technology, is unsurprising. Nevertheless, regulatory concerns, such as HIPAA, and a culture resistant to change have historically impeded secure messaging adoption and left pagers as the authoritative device. Today, most secure messaging vendors targeting the healthcare vertical outfit their solutions to meet HIPAA regulations, and with innovative features such as message recall, message lifespan, and group messaging as well as integration capabilities, pagers stand no match. Overcoming pagers’ dominance in the industry will, nevertheless, prove troublesome given, their low-cost, efficacy in enabling communications, and the unexplainable affinity for these devices among doctors and nurses, perhaps due to their simplicity. Fickle in their investments and slow to embrace technological change, healthcare organizations’ culture poses as great a challenge to adoption as their promising characteristics—large mobile workforce, team-oriented, communications-based, etc.—serve as drivers.
Replacing pagers with smartphones or tablets, undoubtedly, provides a whole host of benefits to workers, patients, and the healthcare organizations, themselves. Whether these devices run mobile applications that facilitate specific line of business processes, such as equipment locator tools, enable access to databases and medical resources, or allow data entry via mobile forms, the benefits are endless and, to date, largely underutilized. Secure messaging falls into this category of beneficial but largely underutilized applications. The security benefits are fairly straightforward: organizations require solutions with strong encryption and authentication features to protect their own data as well as the data of their customers or patients. For most secure messaging vendors in the space this requirement is table stakes and simply a cost of market entry. Security, among the top vendors in the space, is largely undifferentiated and no solution is truly impenetrable.
If not security, what is the most valuable aspect of a secure messaging solution? Productivity. Organizations looking to get the most out of their employees and reduce errors—57 percent of healthcare organizations identify patient safety as a leading market pressure driving investment—increasingly view secure messaging as an important tool to accomplish these goals. Collaboration among employees fosters innovation and improves productivity while reducing errors by enabling quick and easy communication among one or more co-workers. Most solutions include an easily accessible and searchable centralized database of contacts, which employees use to connect with individuals previously unknown to them. Several vendors take this elimination of communication barriers to the next level; enabling users to message individuals not using the platform, and therefore extending the network without compromising security. Quick and effective communication improves productivity and collaboration, but to bet on this investment, many organizations look for additional capabilities beyond messaging. This desire for additional functionality was voiced by a top-tier hospital in the Northeast, having recently evaluated a number of different secure messaging platforms. To meet these expectations, secure messaging solutions increasingly include workflow integration. In some cases, such as with the Cureatr platform, employees may access a to-do-list within the application that corresponds to a specific workflow or client/patient and is accessible by all employees involved in the tasks. In this case, workers see what still needs to be done, who is doing what, and may discuss the intricacies of work with their co-workers securely in the application.
Other vendors, such as Soprano Design, have begun incorporating enterprise applications within the messaging application itself; thus allowing workers to actually complete and share work without ever leaving the app. In this sense, the messaging application becomes the de facto workstation, where employees, for example, can fill out and share their time sheets all in one place. Secure messaging solutions also provide the IT department with control (administrative powers) and executive management with data and analytics regarding workflows and potential bottlenecks. Despite the inherent gains provided by secure messaging, adoption within industries outside of healthcare is nascent, often leaving vendors starving for business. Other industries, however, do stand to benefit from adoption, and as vendors add additional functionality to their platforms, with enhanced productivity in mind, the value proposition for companies outside healthcare should become apparent. Even without strict regulations, large mobile workforces, or a tangible need for improved collaboration, many industries will still look at secure messaging as a tool to get the most out of their mobile deployments.
Advancements in the platforms and growing adoption within some industries do not cure all of secure messaging’s ills. Crowded and fragmented, the market fails to provide a unified message and value proposition around which end-users can justify technology investments. Moreover, many secure messaging vendors, still young and small, do not have comprehensive solutions capable of addressing the needs of end-users at scale. To address these concerns, vendors must improve their communications regarding cost of ownership figures and highlight solution benefits. However, even then, vendors must confront another particularly challenging obstacle—user adoption and engagement. The success of a deployment depends on employees adopting and using the solution. If adoption and engagement lag, then the organization will not benefit. Overcoming this barrier requires that companies offer a product that provides tangible value and a friendly user experience and interface. Another key to success depends on exhibiting patience to wait out cultural resistance and demographic change. Many vendors have, and continue to, take steps to improve their products, and in short time, secure messaging solutions should see the uptick in demand that they deserve. And for the skeptics, one need not look back further than last November, when market leader TigerText received $50 million in Series C funding, to see the momentum and high expectations for this niche market segment.
About the Author
Matthew Hopkins brings experience in quantitative and qualitative research to the Enterprise Mobility and Connected Devices team. He supports a variety of syndicated research programs and custom engagements. His experience includes work for market research firm KRC Research, where he engaged in questionnaire design and data analysis for a number of Fortune 500 companies. Matt’s research background includes strategic communications based on primary and secondary research insights in the technology space. He also possesses a strong understanding of the technology media landscape from his time with the public relations firm Infinite Spada. An avid traveler and hiker, he has visited a number of countries and studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Matt received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from Marist College, graduating magna cum laude.
About VDC Research
Founded in 1971, VDC Research provides in-depth insights to technology vendors, end users, and investors across the globe. As a market research and consulting firm, VDC’s coverage of AutoID, enterprise mobility, industrial automation, and IoT and embedded technologies is among the most advanced in the industry, helping our clients make critical decisions with confidence. Offering syndicated reports and custom consultations, our methodologies consistently provide accurate forecasts and unmatched thought leadership for deeply technical markets. Located in Natick, Massachusetts, VDC prides itself on its close personal relationships with clients, delivering an attention to detail and a unique perspective that is second to none.
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