Jan 10 2020
Feb 16 2020
Microsoft Teams & Slack's rivalry and what’s ahead for collaboration
Competition continues to intensify in enterprise productivity among Slack, Microsoft, and other rising players. The last few weeks have seen Slack signing a deal to expand across IBM’s 350K+ employees, the launch of the first global ad campaign for Microsoft Teams, and reports of Google developing a new “unified communications” app for businesses.
Slack, which was founded in 2009 and launched in 2013, was the first of the current generation of enterprise collaboration platforms to find success. With its modern approach to messaging, channels and bot integration, Slack built traction within enterprises with a “land and expand” strategy – getting teams to adopt it as an alternative to email and then expanding to the rest of the organization. Though Slack wasn’t without competitors, it wasn’t until Microsoft Teams launched in 2016 that it faced a serious rival.
Since then, Teams has grown rapidly, with Microsoft calling it the fastest-growing app in Microsoft’s history in late 2018. In Nov 2019, Microsoft announced that Teams had 20M+ daily active users – up 54% from the 13M users reported just 4 months earlier in its annual report released Jul 2019. In comparison, Slack had 12M daily active users in Oct 2019, up 20% from 10M in Jan 2019. With Microsoft Teams’ numbers indicating greater share and faster adoption, and Slack not yet profitable, Slack’s share price has struggled since its direct listing on the NYSE last year (despite a recent rally).
Slack is on the defensive, suggesting that Teams’ growing numbers are misleading and the result of “surprisingly unsportsmanlike” behavior by Microsoft. CEO Stewart Butterfield has questioned Microsoft’s numbers, calling out specifically the “force-migrat[ion]” of Skype for Business users and alleged paying of customers to use Teams. Microsoft has responded with clarification that its “daily active users” include only users undertaking an “intentional action” across the Teams desktop, mobile and web clients, such as starting a chat/call or sharing or editing a file – and excluding activity such as minimizing a window, auto-starting or closing the app, and using Skype.
Butterfield is emphasizing Slack’s user engagement, particularly the 90 min/day users spend on average actively using its platform and 5B+ actions per week (1B+ on mobile) across its users. In comparison, Microsoft’s cited numbers have shown 27M+ voice/video meetings and 220M+ actions on files stored in Teams within one month – suggesting weaker engagement than Slack, at least on average. Slack also has millions of paid seats, whereas Teams is effectively free for existing Office 365 commercial customers (as well as users in the free tier). As Butterfield has pointed out, 70%+ of Slack’s top 50 customers already have access to Teams through their Office 365 subscription and still opt to pay Slack $1M+ annually.
Still, Microsoft presents a hurdle for Slack’s continued growth – one recent CNBC survey had 58% of technology-executive respondents indicating they use Microsoft Teams, vs. 30% using Slack. A Wedbush report suggested that just 10-15% of Microsoft’s enterprise customer base may be “in play” for Slack. While Slack remains popular with startups, more of Slack’s revenue is coming from large customers – 47% in the most recent earnings report from customers paying $100K+ per year. It raises the question as to where Slack’s future growth will come from.
While Slack is far from dead in the water, its growth is clearly now constrained by Microsoft Teams. The winners, at least in the near term, will be the customers and users.
Jump to What It Means
In the ring – Microsoft Teams vs. Slack
- Like Slack, Microsoft Teams offers a free tier with limits in place (e.g. 300 users, 10 GB of file-sharing) to encourage users to upgrade. Unlike its competitors, however, Teams is deeply integrated with Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription bundles, which include widely used business applications like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook. Office 365 commercial saw 200M+ monthly active users in Q1 2020, with 21% year-over-year growth in seats in Q2 2020 – implying that less than 10% of Office 365 users are using Teams.
- Organizations with Office 365 Business Essentials ($5 per user per month), Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month) or Office 365 Enterprise plans ($8-35 per user per month) get upgraded versions of Teams as part of their bundled subscription. Notably, many of these upgraded versions include VoIP-calling as a planned substitute for Skype for Business, which Microsoft is phasing out in mid-2021. Migration of existing Office 365 users from Skype to Teams began in Sep 2019. With Skype for Business at one point having 140M+ licensed users, this transition – along with Microsoft mobilizing its business partners to drive more Teams trials – is a key driver of Teams’ recent growth.
- Similar to Slack, Teams offers group channels, threaded conversations, private messages, and 3rd-party bots and applications, through one platform accessible via desktop, mobile and web browser. The platform also integrates audio/video conferencing, screen-sharing, file storage and sharing (OneDrive), and real-time document collaboration.
- Part of Teams’ appeal is its deep integration with Microsoft’s broader suite of Office products. For instance, users can share, access and edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel files directly in Teams, while discussing the changes being made. Teams also benefits from single sign-on and similar administration, security and compliance as the rest of Office 365, with data storage in Azure. Microsoft has specifically stated its intentions to be best-in-class in security and integration, with “no compromises.”
- Microsoft continues to expand the suite of Teams features and integrations – such as recording and transcription, in-line translation, live captions, custom backdrops on video calls, Cortana actions (e.g. “start my meeting”), integration with Outlook (e.g. sharing emails to Teams), whiteboarding with Microsoft Whiteboard and intelligent capture of analog whiteboards, integration with enterprise-wide social/engagement platform Yammer, private channels, ability to pin and organize channels into custom lists, and a combined view of personal tasks (Microsoft To Do) and team/assigned tasks (Microsoft Planner).
- A growing ecosystem of apps and developer tools extend Teams’ ability to be customized to user workflows, though its number is dwarfed by Slack’s 2,000+ apps. Teams currently has 340+ pre-built apps integrating Zoom, Webex, Trello, Jira, Evernote, Constant Contact, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, Google Analytics, SignalFx, GitHub, Stack Overflow, Adobe Creative Cloud, ADP, and Wikipedia, among others. Microsoft also offers a Teams Developer toolkit to enable custom apps, as well as integration with low-code/no-code “Power Platform” for automated workflows, AI agents (e.g. virtual assistants, chatbots), and dashboards. In mid-2019, it also introduced the Fluid Framework, an SDK (software development kit) for collaborative editing that is being integrated into Office 365.
- Microsoft continues to work with its partner community on interoperability and integrations. In Nov 2019, Microsoft announced a deal with Salesforce to integrate Teams with Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, with better interoperability between Teams and Chatter. (Salesforce also signed a similar deal with Slack.) In Dec 2019, Microsoft launched a public preview of Teams for the open-source Linux operating system, making Teams the first Office 365 application on Linux. (Slack has been available on Linux for almost two years.)
- Microsoft has lately begun to push Teams into new verticals. In late 2019, Microsoft announced its intention to develop industry-specific offerings, highlighting healthcare-specific applications such as “virtual consults” and patient coordination. Soon after, it launched Teams for Education, which includes data synchronization with school systems, management of assignments, and gradebooks.
- Microsoft is also working on Teams tools for “firstline workers” (e.g. in retail, hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare, government) as part of a broader Microsoft 365 offering. Tools include an integrated walkie-talkie function (in partnership with Samsung), task tracking and reporting, SMS sign-in for mobile devices, and integrations with workforce management systems such as Kronos and JDA for time-tracking and shift management.
- Teams has had its share of hiccups, most notably a major outage for three hours on Feb 3 when an authentication certificate expired, preventing many users from accessing the service.
- Originally marketed as a solution to “replace email” within organizations, Slack’s core messaging platform offered conversation channels for faster communication and collaboration, ability to share different file structures, and integration of 3rd-party bots and applications. Slack also allows users to make audio and video calls (both 1:1 and group) through its platform.
- Like Teams, Slack offers a free version of its platform with limitations to encourage upgrade to paid plans. The free tier, for instance, limits users’ ability to search to the most recent 10,000 messages, doesn’t offer group video chats, and caps app integrations at 10. The Standard version with full platform capabilities is $8 per user per month, while the Plus tier with enhanced security, administrative support, and compliance is $15 per user per month. There’s also an Enterprise Grid plan for extra-large or regulated companies.
- At last reports, Slack had 600K+ organizations using its platform, of which 105K are paid customers (up 30% year-over-year) representing 6M+ paid seats. Of its paid customers, 50+ generate $1M+ in annual revenue (up from just over 30 the prior year), and 821 pay $100K+ per year (up 67%). It counts 65 of the Fortune 100 as paid customers. Its most recent widely reported win – the expansion to all 350K+ employees at long-standing customer IBM – resulted in significant market volatility as Slack’s share price shot up and declined again with the realization that IBM was adding a less-impressive 50K seats. Slack serves companies in 150+ countries, with 37% of revenue coming from outside the US.
- Slack provides an API toolkit for developers to create custom apps that can be used internally within a customer’s organization or published to the App Directory for public use. It has lately been focused on “richer apps,” extending the API with features like Block Kit (UI framework), App Actions (deeper integration with apps and their “actions”), and App Home (integrated access/functionality in the user’s main view of an app).
- The App Directory offers 2,000+ pre-built apps integrated into Slack’s platform, including other productivity tools and platforms such as Google G Suite applications, Salesforce, Asana, Trello, Zendesk, Twitter, GitHub, Zapier, and Zoom. In Apr 2019, Slack announced new integrations with Microsoft’s Office 365 tools – e.g. sharing Outlook emails to Slack channels, previews of Word and Powerpoint – using publicly available Office 365 APIs.
- 550K+ custom apps had been deployed on Slack as of Sep 2019. In Oct 2019, Slack released new features to make it easier for its “Slack platform community” of 700K+ developers to build apps, which will include a certification program. In Apr 2019, Slack also announced its Workflow Builder tool to help users automate routine processes without using code.
- 2019 saw an emphasis by Slack on growing its ecosystem of partners. In Nov 2019, it formalized a Services Partner Program with 7 initial partner organizations globally. Partners will support firmwide implementations of Slack with consulting services such as solution design, business process optimization, and change management. Slack also has been engaging in partnerships with technology firms, such as the mid-2018 relationship/deal with enterprise-software firm Atlassian in which Slack acquired the IP for Atlassian collaboration products Stride and HipChat. More recently, it has been building closer relationships with Salesforce (with new integrations such as the ability to search for and share Salesforce records in Slack, and append Slack threads in Salesforce), as well as Dropbox, Zoom, Workday, and others.
- In Sep 2019, Slack opened up a Shared Channels feature that enables in-app communication between users and their external partners and clients. The feature, which had been in beta since 2017, is available to Enterprise-level customers. Example use cases include salespeople closing deals with clients, customer success teams supporting customers, HR teams working with external recruiters, marketers with creative agencies, professional services firms with their clients, and federal agencies working with vendors. A reported 26,000 companies were using Shared Channels as of Dec 2019, including 80% of Slack’s $100K+ paid customers.
- Slack has emphasized its scalability as a differentiator – its platform can serve 250K members per workspace/team with unlimited channels, compared to Microsoft’s per-workspace/team maximum of 5,000 members and 200 channels. The story is different at the enterprise level – Slack’s Enterprise Grid can reportedly hold up to 500K users, while Teams can support an unlimited number of users in an organization.
Other collaboration & productivity players
While Microsoft Teams and Slack are the highest-profile players in enterprise collaboration, other vendors ranging from other big tech firms to startups are also making a play for the space. One investor recently called productivity startups one of their most active investment areas.
Google G Suite
- Google just announced a “unified communications app” as part of G Suite, bringing together standalone apps like Gmail, Drive, Meet and Chat. The unified app will have integrations with Calendar and likely other applications like Voice, Docs, Sheets, Slides. While Google has been trying to target the enterprise for well over a decade (since G Suite was called Google Apps), it’s only been in the past 5 years or so that it has put concerted effort and meaningful investment behind G Suite. G Suite is housed under Google Cloud – both have been receiving substantial attention and investment of late.
- G Suite competes with both core Office 365 applications and collaboration platforms like Teams and Slack. It originally differentiated itself with branded Gmail, real-time document collaboration, Hangouts video conferencing, fast on-boarding, and low pricing. It offers 3 tiers: Basic with limited cloud storage ($6 per user per month), Business with archiving and enterprise search ($12 per user per month), and Enterprise with security, compliance and identity management ($25 per user per month).
- At the end of 2018, the last time Google reported on customers, G Suite had 5M+ businesses as paying customers. Though reports indicate they tend to be smaller than Office 365 customers, their customers do include larger enterprises such as Iron Mountain (25,000 employees). Google doesn’t break out G Suite separately but in Q4 2019, Google Cloud saw 53% growth (year-over-year), driven in part by “strong growth in G Suite” for SMB and Enterprise segments, in both seat count and average revenue per seat. By all indications, however, G Suite’s market share is small relative to Office 365.
- Like Microsoft and Slack, G Suite offers a marketplace of 3rd-party apps from the likes of Webex, Zoom, MailChimp, Asana and Trello. In Apr 2019, G Suite announced the beta for G Suite Add-ons, integrations between G Suite and 17+ other workplace apps such as Salesforce and Asana. Google has also been signaling intentions to “reimagine” application development with workflow automation, app-development support, and API management – most recently acquiring no-code app development platform AppSheet.
- It continues to roll out new features – such as the Currents employee-engagement offering (similar to Yammer and Facebook Workplace) reborn out of Google+. Google is also prioritizing the integration of its AI-powered Assistant into G Suite – such as Smart Compose, grammar and spelling suggestions in Google Docs; ability to create, cancel, reschedule, and enter meetings via voice commands; and flagging of suspicious activity. Assistant is also built into the $1,999 Hangouts Meet kit from Asus as well.
- Google has lately been emphasizing security, launching an Advanced Protection Program incorporating a hardware dongle that offers G Suite users the same level of security Google has in-house. G Suite data is stored in Google Cloud and documents are not end-to-end encrypted, causing some to question how Google uses its data access. Google has said that enterprise customers own their data and Google does not scan it for advertising.
Workplace from Facebook
- Workplace from Facebook was launched in the market in late 2016 as an enterprise social/engagement platform, after being used by Facebook internally for years. Workplace mirrors Facebook’s look-and-feel (e.g. News Feed) and capitalizes on users’ familiarity with its consumer product, while offering groups, messaging, video-calling and conferencing, and org charts. Workplace reached 3M paid end-users in Oct 2019, up from 2M in Feb 2019. It has 150+ large customers with at least 10,000+ employees, such as Walmart, Starbucks, Campbell’s, Delta, Vodafone and Spotify.
- In Jul 2019, Workplace announced new pricing and plans for the platform, with 3 tiers. Workplace Essential (free) offers groups, chat, video-calling, and live-streaming functionality with limitations on data storage and number of groups. Workplace Essential ($4 per person per month) provides full functionality with integrations, administration and security. Workplace Enterprise ($8 per person per month) offers all of that with dedicated support and priority resolution. In addition to these 3 tiers, a Workplace Frontline add-on is also available for $1.50 per “deskless worker” per month, with conditional access controls.
- As part of its value proposition, Workplace emphasizes employee feedback and engagement, and learning and collaboration. Its Insights feature, for instance, offers organizations a view into their employees with communications consumption metrics and sentiment analysis on comments. The platform also offers “badges” for employees’ profiles, built-in surveys, and employee-appreciation mechanisms, and has space for on-boarding and learning content as well.
- As with other players, Workplace has a partner program with 40+ services providers that help enterprise customers implement and roll out Workplace across their organizations. It also has technology partners with 3rd-party integrations such as Zoom, Webex, Trello, Dropbox, SurveyMonkey, Bloomberg, Google Drive, and Microsoft Azure Active Directory, OneDrive and Sharepoint.
While the more established project-management tools – e.g. project management applications Asana and Basecamp, Atlassian’s Trello (card-based organization), Jira (project management for software development) and Confluence (organizational wiki) – are still alive, there are a set of growing and emerging players seeking to solve the whitespaces and verticals:
- Notion provides a lightweight “all-in-one” solution for smaller companies, with 4 integrated functions – Notes & Docs, Knowledge Base, Tasks & Projects, and Spreadsheets & Databases. Notion has 1M+ users and “thousands” of startup customers. It is working to extend its platform to bring on larger customers – e.g. offline access, permission systems, developer API.
- Coda is another tool that brings together text and different forms of media into a kind of “programmable document” or “new surface” for teams. It bridges traditional documents and spreadsheets, and allows users to build apps with its documents. Coda integrates with 3rd-party apps like Slack, G Suite, GitHub and Figma, with the ability to bring data in or push data out through Coda’s “Packs.”
- Monday.com focuses on flexible workflow management (with ready templates and drag-and-drop modules), automations, and 3rd-party integrations. It just released its 2.0 workflow platform making it easier for users to build custom apps code-free, with 100+ pre-built automation recipes and 50+ integrations with other apps. Monday.com reached a $1.9B valuation in Jul 2019 and claims 100K+ organizations as customers.
- Zenkit bills itself as a better, more flexible Trello, offering flexible card-based organization systems and lists. Modules available include team wikis, task management, Gantt charts, team checklists, CRM and other databases. In May 2019, it launched Microsoft Teams support and a public API that will allow developers to use Zenkit as a backend database for their apps.
- ‘nuffsaid takes another approach to solving the problem of distracting notifications from too many applications by offering a “super inbox” that combines and prioritizes messages from multiple productivity tools.
- LumApps offers a “social intranet for the enterprise” that integrates with other software such as G Suite and Office 365.
- Space offers an integrated team environment for software developers, with messaging, team and project management, blogs and meeting scheduling.
- Frame.io provides collaboration tools focused around media and video creation.
- In addition to the APIs offered by the productivity platforms, there are also a growing number of independent API/integration offerings to help connect apps and automate workflows, e.g. IFTTT, Zapier, Unito, Boomi, Integromat, Mulesoft Anypoint, Jitterbit, Tray.io, Workato, Automate.io, IBM App Connect, Celigo, Hubot.
What It Means
The winners here, at least in the near term, are the customers and users. Healthy competition means more innovation, product advances, better customer service, and perhaps lower prices. Slack led its particular corner of the enterprise productivity world for probably too long. It could have, for instance, pressed harder to launch Shared Channels earlier – it had been in beta since 2017 and would have helped with customer lock-in. It was also late to the game with its enterprise partner program, which meant slower go-to-market and less support for large customers in rolling out Slack. With the head-to-head competition from Microsoft Teams, Slack has noticeably picked up the pace of innovation.
While Slack is far from dead in the water, its growth is clearly now constrained – especially among the larger companies where it has seen its recent growth but is Microsoft’s sweet spot. Microsoft Teams is already more widely used than Slack and growing faster. It’s also better positioned for future growth, having tapped less than 10% of Office 365 users so far and with the Office 365 base growing at 20%+. Teams’ integration with Office 365 also means its collaboration is already proximal to the context of workflow – e.g. documents and deliverables – an enviable position for any collaboration tool.
With many enterprise users still closely tied to their Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint, Teams is effectively free and becoming perceived as “good enough.” While it’s not clear whether Teams can achieve anywhere close to the same level of engagement as Slack, as we have seen with Microsoft Office in the past, professionals will work with the tools offered to them by their workplace (within limits). For CIOs, Teams is also easier to procure (since it comes bundled with Office 365), administer, and ensure security and compliance, giving them a “single throat to choke” in the case of any issues. Given growing cybersecurity awareness and companies increasingly concerned about data residency, Teams data stored in Microsoft’s Azure cloud is likely viewed as an advantage by CIOs. All this entrenchment means that Microsoft has a window to continue to enhance Teams and advance its value proposition beyond “good enough” to “better.”
Microsoft has signaled deep and lasting commitment to Teams, as part of its broader orientation towards the cloud. CEO Satya Nadella has said that few products are like Teams in driving network efforts and usage for the rest of Office. Microsoft has mobilized its incredible business partner ecosystem behind Office 365 and Teams, spurred by the early announcement of the popular Skype for Business’ demise in 2021. We can infer some grand ambitions that will involve deeper hooks into the Azure business, more features that integrate AI and machine learning, and dominating the most lucrative corners of the enterprise productivity space.
The reality, however, is that enterprises will have more than one or even two products under their roofs. According to Slack, 70%+ of its top 50 customers also have access to Teams. Similarly, a recent Okta report found almost 1/3 of its customers with Office 365 also had G Suite. In some cases, products will coexist and integrate with each other through APIs. In other cases, they will fill different needs and serve different customer segments.
While Teams is well-positioned with larger organizations already familiar with and invested in Microsoft infrastructure, it is less compelling for smaller businesses and startups. One Sep 2019 report found that just 12% of funded startups pay for Office (including Teams), compared to the nearly 60% that pay for Slack. Slack will continue to be attractive to startups and smaller businesses (up to, say, 2,000 seats) who want to stay nimble, are less encumbered with existing infrastructure, and have the flexibility to pick and choose from a range of tools.
Slack and Teams will find themselves in a symbiotic relationship, as some of their respective customers need both tools and/or need to collaborate with third parties who are using the other tool. We will likely see them build more integrations into each other’s platform – partly to offer more value and retain their customers, partly to encourage adoption by new customers, and partly as an option for a future of interoperable tools and platforms where integrations are table stakes. We should also recognize that it’s still relatively early days – in one survey, 95% of respondents said they still use email for internal communications.
In the longer run, however, there is an open question as to whether Slack can hold up in the face of competition on both ends – integrated productivity suites and newer market entrants. While Slack helped popularize messaging in the enterprise, it is now facing a “new generation of functional apps” with messaging and collaboration built-in. A standalone messaging platform supplemental to workflow may not continue to make sense, compared to tools like Teams and G Suite that embed project, product, document, or other work context. Microsoft’s stated intent for Teams is to serve as a “hub for teamwork” – not just messaging. As former VC Kevin Kwok has suggested, we can expect to see a convergence of collaboration and productivity – with collaboration taking place within existing workflows. Through this lens, Slack is beginning to look like an attractive acquisition for a major enterprise player – perhaps one that is falling behind, has ambitions in the world of collaboration and data, and with a lot of cash to burn.
Right now, there’s still whitespace in the market for vendors able to serve distinct needs. For instance, Microsoft is very good at extending its tentacles across an organization and ensuring security within the organization’s firewall, but less well-equipped to bridge and facilitate knowledge flows across different organizations. Slack is actively pursuing this opportunity with its Shared Channels, but it’s still a nascent arena.
As we have seen with enterprise and cloud solutions elsewhere, there is a gravitational pull after platforms achieve scale towards industry- and function-specific offerings. Enterprise digital leaders, after experiencing the cost and pain of custom implementations, begin to seek solutions that are more relevant for their business out of the box. In the early days, this may look like go-to-market guides, industry templates, and light configuration. Later, it becomes more complete solutions targeted to industry or functional workflows. In enterprise collaboration, we’re already seeing modern offerings targeted to verticals – e.g. Microsoft and Facebook’s tools for firstline/frontline workers, Flexport’s collaboration platform for freight, Beekeeper for non-desk employees, Space for developers, Automattic’s Happy Schedule for customer support teams.
There has lately been a lot of attention on automations, custom workflows and user-generated applications built on no-code platforms. Highly customized – even personalized – workflows hold the potential of being even more relevant than industry solutions, moving the offering even further to the end of the relevance continuum. It also becomes a lever to improve retention if the custom workflows and applications are not readily portable. This will be dependent on adoption, however – it might be a slower shift since workers will need to develop the skillsets to build their own automations and streamline their own custom workflows.
Integration of AI will be one aspect of personalization, in addition to generally advancing the respective platforms’ capabilities. Because of AI’s potential to discover and share information, automate tasks, and facilitate contextual interactions, its capabilities are a natural fit for augmenting human collaboration and improving worker experiences. While we have a long way to go before virtual assistants can operate like human assistants, AI can still save workers substantial time in automating or streamlining repeatable tasks. It can also elevate the most relevant information for a user, which Slack is already investing in. The need for more capable AI certainly gives an advantage to big tech firms like Google, as they vie for the enterprise collaboration market.
The news is not all good. As we look ahead, there’s the possibility that these integrated suites like Office 365 and G Suite will suck much of the oxygen out of the system, deterring new entrants and innovation. While the shift to APIs arguably opens up the market for smaller players, the reality is that their applications and add-ons will be lost inside massive 3rd-party libraries without an independent marketing push. The larger players have the war chests to make acquisitions and deepen integrations, getting ahead of the next set of market expectations (like integrated email, voice- and video-calling in the prior round). The big tech players also have the resources and talent to build copycat features of any 3rd-party product that gains meaningful traction. Some might say that Teams itself, which has features similar to that of Slack, is an example of that.
Microsoft, in particular, has to be wary of antitrust considerations, since there’s little doubt that the success of Teams leans on its existing market power. User trust and data security will also be critical. As we have already seen with Facebook, there can be backlash against big tech players based on their use of data in advertising businesses. This can impact how effectively they can play in realms with access to sensitive data, such as enterprise collaboration.
For organizations evaluating enterprise collaboration vendors, they will need to be strategic in taking an approach that can both serve near-term needs and adapt as the organization grows and state-of-the-art evolves. Most companies of a certain size will choose one, or at most two, horizontal integrated platforms, and combine them with best-of-breed vendors in a few areas. Organizations should look to pick a system using the context of their employees’ workflows, with actual use cases in mind. Key considerations include handling of synchronous (e.g. real-time chat) and asynchronous communications, pre-built integrations and AI, other API integrations and interoperability (with an emphasis on quality over quantity), size and engagement of the developer community, automation affordances and availability of no-code platforms, document-sharing and real-time collaboration, mobile vs. desktop experience, notifications, quality of search, accessibility in different geographies (e.g. Facebook Workplace in China), level of customization and support needed, and data security and compliance, among other factors.
While the conversation around collaboration can be very tools-oriented, workflows matter more. A new collaboration platform can be an opportunity to rethink how work is done – roles, workflows, tasks and interactions. In some cases, organizations will need to deconstruct traditional “jobs” to reallocate tasks and responsibilities among individuals and teams, AI-powered virtual assistants and bots, and other parts of the organizational system and broader ecosystem. Work in the future will be more networked, more mobile, more team-based, more project-based, more collaborative, more real-time, and more fluid. The challenge will be to make sure it is not more complicated, confusing or overwhelming as well.
Disclosure: Contributors have investment interests in Microsoft. Google and Asana are vendors of 6Pages.
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