Why WhatsApp for Business Communication Is A Bad Idea


Initially built to be used only for personal communications, WhatsApp is now used by employers and employees for business-related purposes because of how much faster the app is in comparison to conventional communication methods.

But the use of a consumer-based messaging app like WhatsApp in a professional setting brings with it numerous potential and immediate problems.

This blog will cover five major problems, and how a collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams puts them to rest.

1) WhatsApp puts your business at risk for GDPR non-compliance

Fact: Though WhatsApp promises end-to-end encryption, it was ranked last by the Electronic Frontier Foundation when it came to data privacy.

Consequence: WhatsApp is connected to employee phone numbers, and can access contact lists and chats which might contain confidential customer data.

This puts your company at risk for GDPR non-compliance. And storing personal information without adhering to the requirements could result in a 20 million Euro fine ($22,421,800 USD) or 4% of your global revenue, whichever is higher.

Solution: Microsoft Teams offers industry-leading compliance commitments that are enabled by default. This includes team-wide and organization-wide two-factor authentication, single sign-on through Active Directory, and encryption of data in transit, audit log search, eDiscovery and legal hold for channels, chats and files as well as mobile application management with Microsoft Intune.

2) WhatsApp lacks auditing features

Fact: German automotive company Continental AG banned WhatsApp from an estimated 36,000 company devices in June 2018 after information security concerns were repeatedly raised in the courts and by data protection authorities.

Consequence: WhatsApp has no audit log feature, meaning there’s no way to track and record documents, images, and videos sent via the app. The lack of an audit log makes it difficult for you to foster user accountability, detect intrusions, or reconstruct events in order to remediate a security problem (that’s waiting to happen).

Solution: The Office 365 Security and Compliance Center lets you track and audit Microsoft Teams use by administrators and other employees. While on the Audit log search page, you can switch the capability on by clicking the “Start recording user and admin activity”. The audit log tracks user and admin activity for the duration of your subscription plan. For example, Office 365 E3 stores events performed in the past 90 days. You may download system activity reports through automation via the platform’s Management Activity API.

If a user adds a chatbot or channel to a team, an audit log search can reveal who and when. It can also tell who added a connector or tab to a channel. If a user removes or modifies these items, the system logs their activity too.

Likewise, you can monitor changes to organization settings. For example, the disabling/enabling of Microsoft Teams, capacity to schedule private or channel meetings, video conferencing, or screen sharing. There’s also an audit trail for the assignment of team member roles.

3) WhatsApp offers limited admin controls

Fact: WhatsApp only allows you to control who can send messages to a group chat and change group description, icon, and details.

Consequence: With unclear company-wide communication policies, complex user management, and no access control features, WhatsApp can be misused to steal information by employees no longer a part of the organisation.

Solution: Microsoft Teams has a rich set of tools for IT admins to manage the product through the Microsoft Teams admin center, PowerShell controls, and Graph APIs.

Using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), you can designate administrators who need different levels of access for managing Microsoft Teams. Administrators can manage the entire Teams workload, or they can have delegated permissions depending on their role.

In the Microsoft Office 365 Admin Center, IT admins have a host of controls over Microsoft Teams, including being able to:

  • Turn Microsoft Teams on or off for the entire organization

  • Choose how users' profiles are configured and what is displayed

  • Turn off video and screen sharing in calls and meetings

  • Control whether to allow various kinds of content, including animated images, memes, and stickers

  • Limit animated images by content rating

  • Turn off support for tabs from Microsoft partners or side-loaded apps

  • Choose whether the organization can use bots to provide help to users, or integrate with other apps (this does not turn off the T-bot in Microsoft Teams)

  • Set priority notifications for industries like healthcare

  • Annotate and share images securely with data storage policies set by IT

  • You can also suspend accounts and automatically log users out of the application if they leave your company ensuring they no longer have access to company data.

  • Advanced permissions allow companies to grant 3rd party users authority to use specific features & perform certain actions (e.g. send workflows, chat with only certain people etc)

4) WhatsApp can cause inefficient communications, reducing productivity and costing your company thousands

Fact: Research from Mitel has found that inefficient communications costs businesses approximately $10,000 USD per employee every year and up to $5 million annually for a company of 500 employees.

Consequence: WhatsApp group chats only allow for 256 users at a time and don’t allow you to create threaded chats to structure your communication, causing you to create multiple side groups for different aspects of a project, each with different members.

An increasing amount of groups and messages makes it difficult to keep track of details, progress, and updates. Unstructured communication also results in missed deadlines, incorrect work, and unhappy clients.

Solution: Microsoft Teams allows individual teams to self-organize and collaborate across business scenarios:

Teams are a collection of people, content, and tools surrounding different projects and outcomes within an organization.

A team is designed to bring together a group of people that work closely to get things done. Teams can be dynamic for project-based work (for example, launching a product, creating a digital war room), as well as ongoing, to reflect the internal structure of your organization (for example, departments and office locations). Conversations, files, and notes across team channels are only visible to members of the team.

Channels are dedicated sections within a team to keep conversations organized by specific topics, projects, disciplines—-whatever works for your team!

Team channels are places where everyone on the team can openly have conversations. Private chats are only visible to those people in the chat (and files that you share in a chat are stored in OneDrive for Business).

Suggested Read: How SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business interact with Microsoft Teams

5) WhatsApp can cause higher employee turnover

Fact: A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development surveyed practitioners on the use of WhatsApp at work: 40% said the app undermined corporate culture.

Consequence: WhatsApp is a great tool to communicate with friends and family, but successful workplace environment requires a level of professionalism, especially during business-related communication. And because you cannot supervise communications within the app, anyone can privately message anyone, create unauthorized groups that breach policies, or use the app as a tool for bullying, prompting targeted employees to leave the company.

Solution: We’ve covered how Teams lets you supervise internal conversations to foster user accountability. However, Team’s pre-approved GIF library, Stickers and Thumbs up features can help you show appreciation to your colleagues in a public and interactive manner, promoting a happier work environment!

Brittany LeMaro