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Why WhatsApp isn't suitable for sensitive or formal correspondence

23 March, 2022

Following the news that Boris Johnson receives summaries of sensitive government material via WhatsApp, the importance of using the right channel for the different types of communication has been highlighted.  

The correspondence is sent to Boris Johnson for "administrative ease", which poses a security threat but also indicates why employees within businesses turn to WhatsApp for business correspondence. Those who do are operating outside the secure realms of the business network (and its IT teams) – an activity known as Shadow IT. 

There's a time and place for WhatsApp. Using it for business correspondence and sending sensitive information isn't it.  

Unfortunately, given how ingrained apps such as WhatsApp are in our daily lives, they are being overused for formal communication, which poses a risk to the business.  

Why is WhatsApp not suitable for business use?

  • The company has no control over it as it's entirely personal 

  • Nobody wants their WhatsApp messages brought up in court 

  • It impacts work/life balance - it's a bad idea for business generally, and workers want a shut off from work 

  • Staff send messages and don't realise their importance 

  • WhatsApp conversations aren't centrally archived so they are impossible to retrieve when people leave the business or when other people in the business need to find out who said what (or what was agreed) 

What's the right space to communicate in?

Along with face-to-face meetings and virtual video conferences, today's workplace sees an abundance of communication channels being used for various purposes. Here's a rough outline of which communication channel works best for the type of communication:

  • Informal, private chat - WhatsApp and instant messaging services 

  • Internal project and team communication - Microsoft Teams, Slack and chat services 

  • Formal business and client correspondence - Email and/or secure client portals

 

What should email be used for?

Email is the letter of today and, when managed correctly, should be the go-to for formal and professional correspondence.  

Email is the perfect platform to send announcements in a structured manner and is a great replacement for outdated written communication methods, such as letters. That's especially important if you send sensitive documents or communications and don't want other people to see them. Emails can also be flagged as urgent if need be. 

The best thing about email? Every important email can be centrally filed and accessed, meaning the business will never lose an email again and have strong audit trails for projects and clients. In highly regulated spaces where critical and sensitive information is shared via email, securely filing and finding emails is an important part of the wider information management strategies to ensure compliance.  

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