When we surveyed our No Jitter audience about Team Collaboration last year, only 15% of respondents said their enterprise used just one such application. Sixty percent said three or more Team Collab applications were in use within their enterprise, while another 25% said two such apps were used.
We’re now fielding this year’s version of the Team Collab survey (and if you’re an end user, you should take it! It’ll help us develop interesting data and insights to report back to you in a few weeks). I’m particularly curious to see this year’s responses about the number of Team Collab apps in use; I’ll be surprised if we’ve moved much closer to a single-app picture for most enterprises.
In fact, I think that standardizing on a single app is going to be harder with Team Collab than it’s been with any previous generations of communications technology. With telephony, you were obviously going to standardize on the company whose desk sets were the only type that worked with your PBX. And with instant messaging, you needed the network effects of having everyone on the same tool.
Team Collaboration apps obviously benefit from that same network effect, so having only one app for all users seems best. But Team Collab also has centrifugal forces pulling users in opposite directions. Those forces are attributable to the important role that APIs play in the Team Collab ecosystem. Integrating other apps lets the Team Collab app be more customized to the end user’s needs, and therefore “stickier” for that end user.
API integrations are especially important for the collab apps that come out of the social world (primarily Slack and Workplace by Facebook). And it seems clear that these vendors are pressing this advantage. At its F8 developer conference last week, Facebook announced a host of integrations for Workplace, with companies ranging from Vonage to Marketo to Cisco Webex Meetings.
That last integration suggests that, as much as Cisco may be pushing its own Webex Teams vision, some enterprises may go a different direction with at least some of their internal organizations—employees potentially using Workplace as the basis of their collaboration, while relying on the integrated Webex Meetings to add video and screen sharing when appropriate. Similarly, Facebook is touting integration with Microsoft Sharepoint, suggesting another way of combining existing enterprise collaboration systems with Workplace.
Obviously, every vendor, including Slack and Facebook, wants their collaboration app to be the only one your enterprise uses. The difference is that Slack and Facebook can afford to settle for sharing the pie—it’s all new market share for them. Meanwhile, Cisco, Microsoft, and other incumbent vendors are emerging out of a world where your goal was to control all endpoints, and you could assume that every user attached to your system was using your endpoint as their primary interface to the platform.
That no longer has to be the case, and we’re living in a world where end users are increasingly likely to expect to make their own decisions about endpoints. It’s actually been happening for a while: PBXs lost total control over telephony once cell phone BYOD emerged; similarly with corporate IM versus SMS.
With all of this in mind, it seems unlikely that large enterprises will ever truly be able to standardize on a single Team Collaboration tool. The question may be how best for IT to get a handle on a more diverse, dynamic, continually-evolving environment.