Over the past couple of years, team collaboration has become one of the hottest topics at Enterprise Connect, and there’s every reason to believe this high level of interest will continue through our Orlando 2020 event. Every year in our post-show survey, we ask attendees, “Which areas do you see as playing a more important role in your business in the next 12 months?” For our 2019 event attendees, team collaboration was second only to cloud communications.
The collaboration market is booming. A recent Gartner report forecasts the global social software and workplace collaboration market growing from $2.7 billion in 2018 to $4.8 billion in 2023. One caveat: Gartner is projecting much of that growth to be fueled by markets in the developing world. So we’re not necessarily going to see more mature markets like North America or EMEA massively increase investments in the team collaboration systems they’ve already begun deploying.
Still, the market will continue to grow, not just in revenue, but in the size of the playing field. If it seems like every time you turn around there’s a new collaboration product or new market entrant, that’s not just your imagination. The report’s author, Craig Roth, Gartner research VP, says in the press release on the report, “By 2023, we expect nearly 60% of enterprise application software providers will have included some form of social software and collaboration functionalities in their software product portfolios.”
That’s a pretty remarkable statistic; and what Gartner calls the market’s fragmentation -- for instance, submarkets like meeting solutions and team collaboration applications -- is likely to be mirrored by a pretty thoroughly fragmented enterprise environment. And it’s happening already. In a typical day, for example, you’ll likely use multiple different video platforms your UC or team collaboration app for impromptu “calls;” a legacy codec-based or newer cloud-based video platform in a conference room for team meetings; and a Web-based client to dial into a video conference being hosted by someone outside your organization. Likewise with team-based collaboration: Maybe you’ll do everything in Slack or Teams, but more likely you’ll continue to have instances where Google Docs make the most sense for the particular group of individuals working on the project.
In other words, collaboration is everywhere now, and it seems unlikely that enterprise IT/communications leaders will ever be able to control all of it. It seems to me that at best we’re heading for a world where users will have two default platforms: For internal communications, we’ll still see the enterprise selecting a standard platform from a strategic vendor; and for external communications, we’ll all default to WebRTC-enabled Web versions of these same platforms, so that any user can attend any conference or call that they need to, without having to download applications or plug-ins to run every collaboration app within their own system.
But those will be the default platforms, and the enterprise will be supporting myriad other communications systems. Partly, this is because you’re almost never really standardized; you’re in the middle of a migration, or you’re figuring out how to assimilate the systems used by a recently acquired company, or various users are on some totally different system for some completely idiosyncratic reason.
But there’s the matter of employee choice. Even with this array of options, we can still predict what any given end user will do in any particular situation: Whatever’s easiest for them.
And the Gartner report tells us that this situation isn’t going to resolve itself any time soon; just the opposite. Get ready for the collaboration situation to grow more chaotic, not less.