Chat Software Improves Employee CommunicationsBy Maggie O'Neill Print
RunKeeper deployed a Web service for chat and instant messaging to improve communications among its employees—whether they're in the office or on the road.
A global mobile fitness platform with more than 40 million users worldwide has adopted a private instant messaging Web service to improve its internal communications and provide better opportunities for texting and conversation among its employees—whether they are in the office, at home or on the road.
Boston-based RunKeeper, which is owned by FitnessKeeper, has about 50 employees—some of whom work remotely. That makes secure private messaging and communications even more essential, according to Rebecca O'Dette, the firm's director of operations.
The company's RunKeeper app, which can be downloaded on iPhone and Android devices, allows users to keep track of their runs, including their pace and distance, as well as the amount of calories burned. It can also provide a personalized workout schedule based on a user's running ability and weight loss.
"We are really focused on how we can help people live more active lives and get fit, stay fit and stay motivated," O'Dette says.
Employee communication is critical, since RunKeeper alternates updated releases for iPhone and Android every two weeks. The company also oversees runkeeper.com, which features a blog called "Beyond the Miles."
When the company began to expand in 2012, it undertook several steps to help manage projects and issues that popped up. First, it turned to JIRA project and issue tracking software, and followed that up with the adoption of Confluence, which is team collaboration software. Both programs are owned by Atlassian, which also purchased HipChat, hosted group chat and video chat software built for teams.
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The company was not happy with its group chat service. "We had been using GChat, but people who frequently worked from home or from a coffee shop missed the functionality of being able to have group chats," O'Dette recalls.
As an alternative, RunKeeper tried out HipChat as part of a 30-day trial and was hooked, particularly since it featured smooth integration with JIRA and Confluence. The company also liked the fact that unlimited chat rooms could be set up for individual teams and different platforms.
"Our DevOps team is a very heavy user" of this application, O'Dette reports.
In addition to providing group and private chat to the organization, HipChat also offers screen, file and video sharing. Notifications can be fed in from 83 other tools, including Google Drive, Google Hangouts, HipGif, Stash, Trello, Twitter, WordPress and ZenDesk. And instant messaging can be personalized through animated GIFS, custom emoticons and bots, Twitter notifications and more.
How has the company benefitted from this app? "Our internal operations improved," O'Dette says. "Operationally, things are moving more smoothly, and it's been great for helping people who work remotely to stay connected."
Secure guest access and fully customizable alerts are also part of the platform, and HipChat's secure conversations are transferred in 256-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption.
While RunKeeper has established different chat rooms for its teams—which range from operations to DevOps—a favorite chat room is called the Water Cooler. It allows employees to post funny comments, interesting stories and any other water-cooler type commentary they want.
In addition, many of the company's employees have downloaded the HipChat app to their smartphones, making for even better internal communications between employees, O'Dette points out.
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