There has been an increased interest in the use of collaboration tools among teams during the last few years. New solutions are sprouting up to enhance business productivity and team members seem to be eager to try them out.
The focus on collaboration becomes more specific with the interest in specific collaboration tools and the way they can facilitate their work and the communication among teams. A questionnaire by PGi  indicates that 88% of industry leaders use online collaboration tools at least once a week.
How did these tools become popular though?
Why have collaboration tools become so popular?
The rise of collaboration tools can be attributed to a series of changes in the business landscape. The most important has to do with a digital transformation  that has led to a huge shift in the workplace and the way teams work.
As more information is shared online, businesses feel the need to organize and transfer all their details as efficiently as possible. The boom in the mobile industry brought up the need for communicating across all devices, syncing information and making business collaboration smooth and direct.
In addition to these, our fast-paced world makes time crucial, which leads to another reason that collaboration tools become vital for organizations. They allow businesses to access and organize files, tasks, and projects while having them available for a transparent environment among teams.
This creates a collaborative process that is digital and global, focusing on the business goals and the best ways to achieve them in faster, better and possibly cheaper yet effective methods.
Analyzing the market
Email seems to be the most popular tools for collaboration among organizations of all sizes. However, there has been an increased use of collaborative chat apps, workplace social networks and project management tools .
A closer look at particular tools indicates a diverse market, split between well-established companies in the industry and new ones with stable growth.
Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Citrix provide their own solutions for collaboration software, while Slack showed up as a serious disruptor and Facebook joined the competition to experiment in a new market.
Larger organizations of more than 500 employees are more likely to use new collaboration tools, with the size of their companies justifying this growing need.
According to Spiceworks , Skype for Business, Google Hangouts and Slack seem to be the first three choices in collaborative chat apps, with Microsoft Teams, Atlassian HipChat and Workplace by Facebook following them.
Skype for Business seems to be the first option for companies of all sizes, which means that its marketplace is stable and successful, serving the needs of many different organizations.
Slack is one of the most impressive cases of growth through the past years, starting in 2013 as the response to the new demands of collaboration among companies. Its appealing and user-friendly interface led to a rapid growth, counting now 6 million daily users. The numerous integrations it is offering led to its adoption from 43% of the largest 100 companies in the United States, with Bloomberg reporting that its value is now at $5 billion.
Slack is rated as the first collaboration tool for innovation in Spiceworks’ survey and it’s the proof that the market was eager to explore a new software that blends a good user experience with enhanced productivity and cross-platform usage.
The market is still undergoing an evolution though and it wouldn’t be surprising if we were noticing further changes over the next few years.
It’s interesting that 11% of organizations are planning to use Microsoft Teams within the next 12 months, which may turn out to be a serious threat to its competitors. Moreover, Facebook’s Workplace is showing up to experiment in a growing market and despite the existing competition, it can still claim its place.
Meanwhile, Atlassian launched Stride, a collaboration tool for corporate use, with HipChat having already a place in the collaboration tools marketplace. The goal is to provide messaging and file sharing along with voice and video chats, screen sharing and remote access. The product blends video/audio conferencing with collaboration tools in a seamless integration of the features to deliver a good user experience. The decision to launch a new product rather than integrating new features to HipChat indicates the company’s plan to provide an ambitious product for corporate use, without imposing it over the existing HipChat users. This may turn out to be a wise decision is the adoption rate increases over the next years, with Atlassian serving as one of the experts in creating successful collaboration tools.
What’s coming next?
The latest updates in the marketplace of collaboration tools indicate that big companies are already acknowledging the potential of the industry.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco, but also Slack and the newcomers understand that collaboration tools will not stop being in demand over the next years.
The adoption rate may change compared to the existing status of the market, as Microsoft Teams, Facebook’s Workplace and Stride may disrupt the industry sooner than expected.
The challenge is to help companies enhance their productivity by blending user experience, integrations, functionality, but also security in one platform.
The most successful tools over the next years will manage to meet the employees’ expectations, guiding them towards a digital future that cloud collaboration tools will become more important. This is expected to enhance productivity, aiming for efficiency and transparency.
The features that define each tool
Every collaboration tool has unique features, but all of them can be ranked based on their general attributes and what they can offer to each business.
Although the criteria for every purchasing decision may differ, businesses tend to focus on:
These are the most popular attributes that help a business decide which tool to use. The focus on each one of them depends on the reasons they are planning to use each tool, but their importance can also affect a tool’s place in the market.
For example, according to Spiceworks , Skype for Business wins in security, reliability, and manageability. Slack clearly wins all the competitors in innovation, but also in the compatibility and the user-friendly experience. Google Hangouts comes first as a cost-effective solution.
Thus, the decision on which tool to use is based on the most important criteria for each business, with the most popular tools building their name in the market depending on the areas they are most trusted for.
How they can help a business
The quick answer to the question of how collaboration tools can help a business is by enhancing the productivity among teams.
In more detail, true collaboration can be achieved with the use of the right tool for each business. This increases competitiveness by improving communication, efficiency and cross-team work.
Whether it’s a small business or a large organization, collaboration tools can be useful in:
- Facilitating the assignment of tasks
- Improving communication among teams
- Providing an overview of each assignment to promote transparency across teams
- Saving time by organizing tasks and documents
- Improving productivity by improving file sharing, messaging and audio/video calls
- Offering a cross-device solution that goes beyond location to help global businesses
- Integrating different tools in one platform to improve productivity
- Reducing operation costs
Collaboration software has to be secure, easy to use, functional and reliable to help a business explore its benefits. Security is currently one of the biggest concerns for organizations and many tools focus on data privacy and enhanced protection to prove that they can be trustworthy.
Moreover, improved communication and workflow can go beyond the company and build a stronger relationship with clients and users, providing a better customer experience through the collaboration and the improved productivity. Thus, collaboration tools have the potential to affect the performance of many stakeholders, creating a new era of connected businesses that have access to the right tools and the right people in every moment.
Collaboration tools aim to promote a purposeful communication, with teams improving their productivity and the effectiveness of their business.
As technology evolves and the market grows, we’re expecting the competition to increase, even more, benefiting the companies that can find more available tools to meet their business goals.
Online collaboration is expected to become a natural extension for businesses harnessing the power of digital transformation and we are excited to track how the market will change over the next years.
- ^ Spiceworks (www.channelpartnersonline.com)
- ^ PGi (newsfix.co.uk)
- ^ digital transformation (www.clickz.com)
- ^ projected (www.appsruntheworld.com)
- ^ project management tools (www.clickz.com)
- ^ Spiceworks (community.spiceworks.com)
- ^ predicts (www.appsruntheworld.com)
- ^ Spiceworks (community.spiceworks.com)