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How to pick the right collaboration tools

James A. Martin | July 21, 2017
IT pros say collaboration is a high priority to their organization, so it's important to choose wisely

The collaboration landscape is poised to continue growing, too. The market will expand at a 13% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2016 to 2024, exceeding $8.5 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights. A study from ReportLinker reached a similar conclusion, estimating the CAGR at 13.2%.

“We’re in a period of transition,” said Jim Lundy, CEO of Aragon Research. “We’re still dependent on email, and mobile messaging hasn’t really caught on yet” at enterprises. As a result, many companies rely multiple, task-specific collaboration tools, with “no one-size-fits-all solution” available.

Ninety-two percent of the IT professionals who responded to the Spiceworks/Lifesize survey have either deployed or are considering deploying multiple collaboration tools and use an average of 4.4 different tools or platforms across three different providers. Not surprisingly, dealing with multiple systems creates management, security, service quality and other challenges for IT professionals.


Collaboration suite vs. best of breed?

At a high level, the choice for enterprise IT decision-makers is between choosing a collaboration suite or building a collaboration stack from best-of-breed products.

Collaboration suites are well-suited to enterprises because they’re often simple to purchase, offer economies of scale and feature tight integration between a variety of features and tools, said Ryan Kennedy, principal architect for Kickdrum, which offers technology consulting and custom software and app development.

Among the best-known enterprise collaboration platform vendors are Microsoft (with Outlook/Exchange, Office 365, SharePoint and Skype for Business); IBM (Collaboration Solutions); Cisco (Spark and related collaboration software); and Google (with G Suite and other tools).

Best-of-breed collaboration tools that offer APIs and interoperability and that have a large ecosystem of third-party tools built around them are often ideal for small and mid-sized businesses, Kennedy said. Such tools, from Trello and Atlassian, offer more flexibility than traditional collaboration suites, giving teams an IFTTT-like experience.

IFTTT, which stands for ‘If This Then That,’ is a software service that links together two disparate tools in order to trigger an automated interaction between them. For example, Trello integrates particularly well with Google Drive documents, Kennedy explains, so updates made in Trello can automatically update a Google Doc.

Among newer collaboration tools, Slack appears to be “taking over the world,” said Kennedy, because it’s well-suited to the on-demand, dispersed, virtual teams that have become the norm; because it frequently adds new features; and because it’s mobile-first at its core.

“Too often, mobile is an afterthought for last-generation, desktop-centric collaboration tools,” he said. “Mobile-native tools like Slack will take over in the near future.”

Slack has also recently expanded into the enterprise space with Grid. Meanwhile, Amazon Chime could become a significant player in the collaboration market and disrupt more established companies such as Microsoft, Lundy predicted. And perhaps not surprisingly, Amazon has been reportedly considering acquiring Slack.


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