Snapchat might be all the rage right now, but if we’re being honest, it seems about as likely a candidate for enterprise software adoption as Yo or Twitter. Sure, it’s good for teenyboppers and twenty-somethings, but realistically, how could any software branded as “ephemeral” possibly be reconciled with quality business software?
Before I dive into some answers, let’s step back for a second. Although our preconceived notions about Snapchat and the enterprise are perfectly reasonable, there’s actually much to be learned from the ephemeral software trend it represents. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Facebook. While Mark Zuckerberg’s juggernaut might have come off as juvenile upon release, it proved that these types of consumer-specific platforms can eventually transform into products that can complement the enterprise. Think Chatter, think Yammer.
So, in the same way that Facebook helped the enterprise connect their employees, ephemeral software also points to trends that can boost software in the enterprise space. Here are some intriguing ephemeral features that you might take some cues from in your own enterprise software.
For a long time now, SMS and messaging apps have mostly functioned as glorified text-based walkie-talkies. I send a message, you respond. By tacking a time limit onto technological exchanges, ephemeral software is drastically changing the way we view messaging services.
There is already evidence that ephemeral messaging is crawling its way into the enterprise world. One app called Confide, for instance, is expressly built to support off-the-record conversations. Since it can be so tough to coordinate candid conversations face-to-face or even over the phone, Confide hopes to emulate the low-stakes environment of a phone call while making the whole exchange much more convenient.
Safer handling of sensitive short-term information
Have you ever had to ping a coworker with a quick question? Have you ever hired a contract worker? Have you ever had to handle sensitive HR issues, tentative business deals or employee referrals?
Businesses frequently deal with content whose existence eventually becomes a burden. The problem, as ephemeral messaging app Wickr states on its site, is that “the Internet is forever.” When businesses deal with sensitive information that isn’t meant to last forever, ephemeral platforms show how they mix candid, honest exchanges with privacy-enabling transience.
If your teams are bringing their own devices to work, then you know how difficult it can be to keep security tight. Even if you’ve done a great job with your MDM and have set up comprehensive protocols to deal with potential threats, it’s impossible to micromanage the work functions that your team members carry out on their own devices in their own time.
By implementing “true” ephemeral apps—that is, apps that legitimately delete information after it’s been sent—businesses can improve secure communications across multiple devices.
Many people tend to overlook this fact, but Snapchat doesn’t just make content ephemeral by making it self-destruct. It also attempts to prevent—or at least influence—the party on the receiving end by detecting whether or not a screenshot has been taken.
Ephemeral software can help businesses limit not just the availability of sensitive content, but also its potential reach. One new tool called Virtru, for instance, allows users to send messages that can’t be forwarded—making it harder for people to spread information that was meant to be self-contained. While it’s difficult to manage what a recipient does with your message, ephemeral software seeks to limit the possibilities as much as possible.
The ace in the hole
Despite ephemeral software’s potential positive influences on software development, there are still plenty of areas where the trend has room to grow. I won’t deny that there’s still something inherently cringe-inducing about setting company exchanges to auto-expire, but I don’t think that’s ephemeral software’s legacy. If there’s one way for ephemeral software to truly gain ground in the enterprise world, it’s through an approach that I call “controlled” ephemerality.
This “best of both worlds” approach is the angle that will make the biggest waves in enterprise technology. The more we find ways to neutralize the downfalls of ephemeral software, the more we can benefit from its many features—some of which still have yet to be uncovered.