Question Time: Can Kaizala end the use of WhatsApp within the Organisation?

Kaizala is a simple and secure mobile chat app for work. Described as the business version of WhatsApp (Web CMS, 2019) and designed as a Microsoft Garage (@MSFTGarage) project, it is now being used by over 1000 government and private businesses in India and has 1 million users in the country where it was first launched (Hindustan Times, 2018). It’s recent success has prompted Microsoft to introduce it into all Office/Microsoft 365 tenants globally. Whether WhatsApp is being used as an informal communications app to bypass formal channels, or whether users they have been driven to use it through dissatisfaction with existing solutions, will we see Kaizala spell the end of the use of WhatsApp within organisations in the near future?

We ask a panel of IT Pro’s their opinions!

This Weeks Panel


Adam Deltinger (@Deltanr1): MCSE, Sweden

Chris Hoard (@Microsoft365Pro): MCT/MCSE, UK

Vesa Nopanen (@VesaNopanen): MVP, Finland

Rick Van Rousselt (@RickVanRousselt): MVP, Belgium


Question 1 – Kaizala is now rolling out to Office 365 tenants globally. Where do you see Kaizala fitting in? Do you think it is confusing to have multiple chat apps in Office 365?

AD: There are numerous services for communication and chat in Office 365 and some are overlapping. Teams, Yammer and now Kaizala. The key thing is to see where and how they fit in for different purposes. Kaizala fits the “first line workers” scenario, and having to communicate with external users in a fast, secure and easy way. With Kaizala many users are already familiar with communicating with a mobile chat application from their personal experience so I imagine it will not be as confusing to use the app itself.

CH: Kaizala is an open loop application meaning it’s designed with frontline workers in mind. Think of hospital workers, stewards at a Football ground, cleaning crew at an airport, or delivery drivers. These users are typically very mobile, may have large decentralised networks and need simple direct communications. We shouldn’t also forget its history, being designed as a lightweight app used in remote and developing areas where connectivity generally isn’t as good. However, I don’t think it will be limited to frontline workers – many organisations will use it org-wide. Personally, I think its a great addition to the 365 set of applications because many users use WhatsApp as 365 didn’t have such a simple chat app: they gravitate towards apps that work for them which is often a primary cause for Shadow IT. Yes, there may be some initial confusion – particularly with Teams and Yammer – but this is all about educating users on the type of communications and the right app. There will be those who insist that using a single unified app is best but I don’t personally ascribe to this view. I think having simple and specific apps that can do things powerfully end up winning out.

VN: Kaizala fits into scenarios where you need to involve your partners, customers, user groups, ad hoc groups or resellers. These users don’t have access to your tenant, but you need to communicate and share information with them in a modern, mobile & easy way. Typically, this would require identity management (usernames & passwords) but Kaizala makes that a lot easier using only a phone number. For organizational users (inside your company) use of Kaizala needs to be carefully thought out: why and when. Otherwise it will get confusing. Use cases inside company could be hobby groups, off work discussions or situations where bandwidth is limited. Your company might develop some apps to complement Kaizala, but that may take away from its use as a simple chat app.

RVR: I see Kaizala fitting in perfectly with organisations who want to make sure that information is kept in a secure and safe environment that they can control. With GDPR legislation almost a year old in Europe and concerns about the privacy and data leaks growing it’s only normal that companies are looking to alternate solutions for WhatsApp, WeChat and other chat-based tools. Because let’s face it, everybody these days has a chat group with their co-workers and you cannot stop them from sharing possible sensitive data. The best you can do is try to make sure that they do this in a secure way. Microsoft Teams features may appear like those of Kaizala but if you look closer then you will find that the use case behind them is totally different. I’m not saying that highly skilled information workers are going to use both Teams and Kaizala. But most non-technical people know already how these chat-based apps work and are already familiar with what they can accomplish with it. This means that companies must invest less time in training because the learning curve remains small.

Question 2 – What would you say are Kaizala’s biggest strengths today? In your experience does it meet your expectations of being a high-quality chat app?

AD: The power of only using telephone numbers for signup, its ability to integrate with other 365 services, alongside security and compliance aspects such as being managed by Intune. I would also say the easiness of connecting with people outside of your organisation. Kaizala is very similar to WhatsApp so it is a high quality chat app and I would expect that to get better as it becomes more integrated into the 365 stack

CH: Kaizala’s strengths are similar to WhatsApp and other leading chat applications – rapid instant messaging on the go, the ability to easily start private conversations and teams and start the conversation with users outside the organisation in minutes. There’s the ability to use it, in part, as a personal app and a work app. It’s API’s and Developer platform. Having used it for over three months it’s an app which will easily become part of your working day, and as the saying goes ‘disappear’. The key difference with Kaizala is its integration with 365 and the added intra-organisational governance through Pro Organisational groups and Intune. But most of all, I think its biggest strength is that it now gives organisations a viable alternative to WhatsApp where before there wasn’t one.

VN: Microsoft data centers instead of Facebook owned. Meeting various complicances (with Kaizala Pro groups). Big strength is the ability to add custom actions. Kaizala is in a good path to become a high-quality chat app. There is still work to be done in usability and user experience. But even with the best UX and security – if you don’t get people to use Kaizala it won’t fly.

RVR: Since Kaizala is the newest kid on the block, Microsoft has learned from other apps and improved where possible. As we are used to from Microsoft the focus is on the enterprise. Take for instance the Nearby Groups feature. There isn’t an app better soothed for those office work parties where you want to share pictures with your co-workers. Now you don’t need to add everybody manually. Kaizala will just add everybody around to a group and you can freely share all those party pic’s

Question 3 – Where do you think Kaizala needs to be improved if more organisations are looking to use it?

AD: I believe Microsoft needs more clarity and to explain the difference with their tools for communications. What are the best use cases and what’s the biggest difference between them? I believe Kaizala is great and already very useful, but few people know about this – and when they find out about Kaizala they are confused and think that’s what Teams is for

CH: Global GA of Kaizala Pro and clarity on data residency. Whilst Kaizala data is confirmed in Microsoft documentation as being in Azure and Microsoft data centres, it’s not transparent if the data is in an EU data centre if, for example, you are using Kaizala in an EU tenant. Having searched, this isn’t transparent in the tenant or on the Trust Centre. This will be an immediate barrier – but one that should be solved soon. Secondly, there needs to be a very strong why to get users to swap out completely. It’ll be easier for organisations which have managed/supervised devices and where users have a surface use of WhatsApp – but it’ll take some convincing for users in a BYOD model who have used WhatsApp a long time who have built up large personal private networks.

VN: Overall UX must get better. It is good now, but it must excel over WhatsApp. Easy integration with Teams (teams tab, connected to Office 365 Group to automate specific files etc) would help help too. Make Kaizala integral part of Office 365 – not separate. Ability to add multiple Office 365 accounts is a must as well – personally I already have lots of tenants I work with (work, personal, dev, test, .. ). Quiet hours and dark mode is needed too. And gifs!

RVR: For more organisations to start adopting Kaizala the pro version should be made available everywhere. In my experience, and especially big companies, don’t trust free apps. They want to have a paid pro version. Because this means that they can have support and SLA’s if needed. When that is completed it can gain maturity and be recognised. I think for the moment Kaizala is still the most unknown product in the Office 365 Suite. When this changes more organisations will jump on board.

Question 4 – Privacy and Trust are often a big issue for users. Do you think that even though a user can create Private Groups outside of the organisation using the App, that they will trust and be comfortable using Kaizala over an application completely outside of Office 365?

AD: From my personal experience, I don’t think users themselves think too much about this. If IT gives them tools, they often trust it. People not using the tools handed to them is most often because the aren’t user friendly or don’t solve their needs.

CH: Here in the UK privacy and trust can sometimes be a big issue for users. I see it as being similar to enrolling a BYOD device into Intune. I have encountered users in the past who believed that the organisation could see things such as their browsing history – and some still believed this even after being shown where it specifically says it doesn’t through the enrolment. Some users just want to keep things off the record; others prefer a clean separation of personal and work applications. It’s not an easy question and ultimately, for many organisations it may come down to IT policy. I would say in this case, benefits outweigh the costs – and I would say that users who are already using WhatsApp for work conversations should consider the risk they are essentially putting their organisation in. Privacy and Trust needs to be a two way street.

VN: Kaizala needs to meet some compliances even when it is not Kaizala Pro. Emphasis must be on security and trust as this will be the main driver for driving usage and adoption

RVR: I think that most users have less problems with the fact that maybe… just maybe there is a slight chance that their organisation can see the conversations they are having, then they have with there information being sold to the highest bidder on online marketing platforms. People just want to communicate with each other. It’s in our nature to do so and we will always keep doing that. If it’s easy and convenient it doesn’t matter in what application. If they can get over the fact that Intune already manages a part of your phone, then I see no problem in your data being in an Office 365 environment.

Question 5 – Can Kaizala end the use of WhatsApp within the organisation?

AD: It can. Kaizala has huge benefits over WhatsApp from an organizational perspective. The security, the number of people allowed in groups, manageability, the use of API’s for custom solutions etc. Also, it’s the same that differentiates for example Microsoft Teams from Slack. Slack may have features Teams lack, but Teams has the integration.

CH: In terms of use for work chat I think it will in many cases. Many organisations used Slack, they now use Teams. Many organisations used Sophos, they now use Windows Defender ATP. Kaizala is more integrated than WhatsApp will ever be. There are more management tools. Kaizala will evolve to have more features and connectors. Some organisations have been waiting for a Kaizala for a very long time – and users within those organisations have too. However, WhatsApp will survive in many organisations as well. There will be cases where Kaizala won’t gain traction because WhatsApp is so embedded. Some organisations will allow users to use both; others will have users who split their work and personal chats between apps. Some users will no doubt hold out and others will move to another app completely for informal chat. This is a difficult question because hard questions immediately follow: can you force users to stop using a personal app, on their own personal device?

VN: It depends. If there are teams that are using WhatsApp for work chat currently and the Team lead + a few respected members switch over to Kaizala then yes. This comes to basic things – 1.) Why (security, maybe WhatsApp is stated it is not allowed and use has consequences) 2.) When/How – scenarios must be clear. When I do use Kaizala and not Teams and 3.) Early adopters always test something new

RVR: This is a difficult question and of course it depends. If you use WhatsApp or not is already not a given fact. People in Europe use it a lot, people in China use WeChat more, in the USA Facebook messenger is the most popular one and in Russia it’s a totally different app that is most used. So, depending on the culture of the organisation it can indeed end the use of WhatsApp for certain people. Say all your conversations happen in WhatsApp, your husband/wife and most of the people you socialize with are also working for the same company as you. Then you just follow to the app where everybody is communicating. If that happens to be Kaizala then so be it. If that is WhatsApp, then that will be your preferred app. Organisations will not have the power to force users into using ‘their’ messaging app. But if there is an alternative then they can at least offer it.

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