How to architect Enterprise Chat for your organisation (Part 1) - The 5 Types of Chat Rooms

May 8, 2014 10:07:43 AM

Attending the Microsoft Lync Conference in February, it was great to be able to meet a multitude of people from all sorts of companies who are using, deploying, or administering Lync Persistent Chat. What’s more, this year, the number of new Persistent Chat adopters had increased triple-fold, as more and more organisations begin to realise the value of implementing Enterprise Chat to drive their team-based collaboration needs.


It struck me though, that the very important aspect of both roll-out and realisation of ROI of Persistent Chat is often overlooked and little formalised or talked about. We’re not talking about architecture in a technical or infrastructure sense here – we mean the very cultural and people-based problem of creating and maintaining the right chat rooms for your organisation.

Our argument is this: To realise the full potential of persistent chat, careful up-front planning of which chat rooms you will need and which users will have access to them is absolutely necessary to drive adoption and build value from the chat room content.

The challenge

All too often, we see Persistent Chat/ Enterprise Chat deployments that have let both users and administrators run wild with chat room creation, not least the worst case where chat rooms are treated as ad-hoc text-based conferences. This leads to:

          >> fragmented and often completely duplicate collaboration streams

          >> un-focused or incomplete chat history around a specific topic

          >> simultaneous duplication of conversation on email

Why chat management is crucial

Carefully managed chat rooms provide the following benefits:

  1. The collaboration culture shifts such that, teams move all day-to-day communication into a chat room. This requires assignment of a specific chat room to each team, and also closing the members list to only the members of that team

  2. Natural adoption of the collaboration paradigm is faster, if the purpose of each chat room is intuitively mapped to a user’s mental model of the company structure

  3. All knowledge on a particular topic (and discussion around that topic) gets accrued into the chat room history, which is of course fully searchable. This builds an organic and invaluable repository of knowledge around that topic. Again, this requires specific assignment of a chat room to a given topic – and that all experts relevant to that topic know that the chat room exists.

  4. Answers to a question on a given topic are easily obtained by asking in a chat room dedicated to that topic. This requires that the experts on the topic know about the chat room, and that those who may need to ask questions on the topic also know about the room's existence

  5. A succinct overview of all company activity relevant to you is easily obtainable by scanning recent messages in the chat rooms. This is possible when the entire company has migrated to Persistent Chat and understands which conversations should happen in which chat room

  6. A well-managed chat room ecosystem will mean that new users’ appreciate the usefulness of using chat rooms quicker, and hence accelerate the adoption process themselves

The process of implementing such a chat room architecture requires a careful analysis of your company’s organisation structure and working culture, and then re-creating this in chat room form.

The 5 types of Chat Room Structure

We’ve found that it helps to think of the following, 5 different types of chat rooms, and then map them to your enterprise:


1)      Team-based chat rooms:

o   Day-to-day running of each team happens in these rooms
o   Their membership is locked down to only the users on that particular team
o   Implemented correctly, ad-hoc text-based conferencing and group email will
     naturally migrate over to chat room-based collaboration
     Example: A chat room for the marketing team

2)      Project-based chat rooms:

o   Day-to-day work on a specific project happens in these rooms
o   All employees working on or dependent on the project are in the room
o   CC-email chains or endless conferences are replaced by the chat room’s
     collaboration stream
     Example: A chat room for an IT system migration

3)      Topic-based chat rooms:

o   All discussions & knowledge sharing around a particular topic happens here
o   Membership is less restrictive but the experts on the topic are in the room
o   The persistence of the chat history builds an automatic repository of
o   Chat room becomes a go-to place to find knowledge on a topic and
     to ask for help
     Example: A chat room for product X

4)      Auditorium chat rooms:

o   General announcement or work-based conversation happens in these rooms
o   Entire divisions or the whole company is a member of the room
o   The chat room may be an “auditorium” to restrict those who can send
     messages to those important enough to make announcements
     Example: A chat room for the whole company containing updates from the CEO

5)      Social chat rooms:

o   A place to talk about specific or general non-work based topics
o   Membership list is generally unrestricted
o   Keeps non-business critical conversation separate from “work” rooms
o   Useful to aid in the initial adoption of the use of chat rooms
     Example: A Gaming chat room

In this blog, we’ve talked about the importance of a well thought through chat room structure, its benefits and the 5 types of chat rooms.

Read Part 2 (coming soon) to learn about and view:

   >> An example of the chat rooms structure applied in a company

   >> Management & Maintenance

   >> Setting a naming convention

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Written by Ben Osborne