Mattermost provides Fairphone with user-friendly collaboration and data privacy controls

  • Mattermost Professional Edition
  • Chose Mattermost for alignment with open source philosophy and usability
  • Centralized collaboration for a globally distributed team
  • Integrated with Nagios for streamlined infrastructure monitoring communication

Fairphone is an Amsterdam-based social enterprise company that aims to develop smartphones designed and produced with a lower environmental impact. The team is distributed across Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In 2015, two separate teams at Fairphone joined Slack to collaborate on projects. While this worked well enough for team communication, it created information siloes, as the rest of the company used email to communicate. “Information quickly got scattered among different environments,” says Leo Makkinje, Site Reliability Engineer for Fairphone.

Fairphone wanted to extend Slack to the rest of the organization. However, when employees started asking questions about Slack’s privacy and data retention policies, the IT team decided to look for alternatives.

A User-Friendly, Open Source Alternative for Collaboration

The most important selection criterion for Fairphone was that a new collaboration tool should be user-friendly for all employees, both on desktop and mobile.

As part of their mission to create fairer phones, Fairphone also strives to bring more fairness to software. This mission includes embracing open source software wherever possible. In addition to usability, Fairphone wanted to use an open source collaboration tool and to have the option of self-hosting to meet their data privacy needs.

The IT team evaluated several open source collaboration alternatives, including Matrix, Rocket.Chat, Zulip, and Mattermost. “After testing various alternative chat tools, we concluded that there was one clear winner: Mattermost,” says Leo. “The look and feel of Mattermost are user-friendly (which makes our employees happy), and deployment in our cloud environment was a breeze (which makes IT happy). The other collaboration tools we tested either had a user interface that was unfamiliar or were a nightmare to install and maintain.”

Cloud Collaboration that Keeps Everyone — and Everything — Connected

Fairphone deployed Mattermost as a self-hosted solution on their private cloud. Mattermost has become part of the Fairphone team’s daily workflow, along with Basecamp, GitLab, and Google Workspace.

“The greatest benefit of Mattermost is that it unclutters our communication. We’ve been able to get rid of those pesky reply-to-all mail threads that drive everyone crazy. One of the areas where this works really well is with our Nagios infrastructure monitoring system,” says Leo. “In the past all notifications would be emailed to the IT team who subsequently would follow up with the development team. This resulted in emails going all over the place, wasting many people’s time. We decided to develop a Nagios plugin that sends notifications to dedicated Mattermost channels. Developers can subscribe to the relevant channels, be in the loop and interact if required, without getting stuck in endless notification threads.”

Fairphone also has Guest Access enabled to allow external partners to join specific channels while maintaining control over the privacy of public channels.

Seamless Transition to Secure Remote Communication

During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, Fairphone switched to a remote workforce. Since critical IT infrastructure and collaboration tools like Mattermost were already cloud-based, the transition was frictionless. “Having no more face-to-face communication meant that people started to use Mattermost more than before. This triggered the IT team to enable additional functionality, such as push notifications for the mobile app and LDAP integration for easy user onboarding,” says Leo.

LDAP functionality on Mattermost has been helpful for Fairphone. “It’s often rather challenging for an IT team to switch from using local user accounts to LDAP accounts,” notes Leo. “Matching existing account names with LDAP user names can be a daunting or even impossible task. But the developers at Mattermost did an outstanding job with the way they implemented this feature. As a result, switching to LDAP-based authentication was smooth as silk, without downtime or headaches.”

Next Steps for Fairphone

To date, the Fairphone team is highly active on Mattermost, with an average of 90 users and bots posting 4,000 messages daily. Leo says that Fairphone is confident that the flexibility and extensibility of the platform will continue to meet their collaboration and workflow orchestration needs as their team grows: “Mattermost works very well for us. And we know that Mattermost has more functionality to offer if we ever need more.”

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