We were already moving toward a future of work that would favor productivity over geography, but the pandemic accelerated this shift in a way that no one could have imagined, shares Peter Jackson, CEO, Bluescape
2020 opened the floodgates for remote work and the accompanying technology that supports it. As distributed teams suddenly needed tools and platforms that helped them collaborate from their homes, the virtual collaboration software market heated up.
More traditional players like Google and Microsoft upgraded their tools while upstarts like Zoom became a household name virtually overnight. Most recently, Salesforce is striking a deal to acquire workplace communication service Slack for $27.7 billion while pushing Customer 360 Truth.
The next questions facing the market are: what will virtual collaboration look like in the years ahead? What technology will best help teams stay productive, regardless of their physical location? Is this the beginning of a consolidation of tools to make a complete end to end platform?
The answer may not come solely from the major players we know today. Instead, the future of work will be increasingly shaped by collaboration platforms versus individual tools and open ecosystem and open source solutions versus closed systems. Here’s why.
Centralized Platforms Combat Tool Sprawl
Video Conferencing tools like Zoom and messaging tools like Slack have been instrumental in helping teams collaborate across time and location, and we can expect tools like these to remain popular. But distributed and in-person teams alike run into a major problem when they start adopting a wide variety of tools for daily use.
As information workers use Cisco Webex for video conferencing, Google Suite for decks/documents, Slack for messaging, plus an array of other tools, tool sprawl becomes a major barrier to collaboration and productivity.
It’s hard to manage multiple tools that require various tabs, windows, and screens. As employees switch between tools looking for the information they need, they lose precious time. This becomes more of an issue at scale when different teams rely on various tools and when employees waste time and energy transferring files between two proprietary systems before they even begin to start their work.
It’s no wonder that 71% of workers desire a centralized place to view and manage their work. That’s why consolidated platforms that let users collaborate across their favorite tools in one central location will increase in popularity.
When employees can easily access and use their tools in one place, they can seamlessly perform their daily tasks. Finding information shouldn’t be the most frustrating part of the day – and it doesn’t have to be.
Open Ecosystems Unlock Productivity and Creativity
Having a visual, consolidated information hub is key, but it’s just a pipe dream without an open ecosystem. Platforms must be able to integrate software from disparate sources because employees will not ditch their favorite workplace tools for one proprietary, closed system.
The good news is that open ecosystems and open-source platforms allow employees to pick and choose from their favorite solutions while also enjoying the benefit of operating these in one place.
Without an open ecosystem, teams are often stuck with choosing one solution over the other, like Google or Microsoft, or Zoom or Webex. Since these solutions often don’t work well together, teams that try to use both face roadblocks to free-flowing collaboration and cannot use both in one place.
But while using an open ecosystem platform, teams can collaborate on any piece of information housed by different vendors, like a Google doc and Microsoft deck, at the same time in the same place. This opens up a world where the only limiting factor is imagination, not what tool the team uses.
Antitrust momentum won’t slow down
If there’s one thing that divided politicians can agree on, it’s antitrust. Even amidst a polarizing election cycle, legislators took aim at Big Tech during a recent hearing. The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, and a bipartisan group of U.S. states is gearing up for their own antitrust lawsuit against Google.
There’s no sign of this trend slowing down, as many believe that under the Biden administration, antitrust momentum will gain ground as startups face the constant threat of Big Tech swallowing their products.
While this doesn’t mean that major providers will be stopped in their tracks, it is important to check the power of corporations that can stifle competition soberly. For example, Slack recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Teams, framing the litigation as a battle for “two very different philosophies for the future of digital ecosystems, gateways versus gatekeepers.” Much is at stake, and the best way to ensure a fair playing field that favors end-users is by democratizing collaboration. This means giving users the power to own their data, avoid vendor lock-in, and benefit from an open ecosystem.
While the past year has brought countless challenges, people also learned an important lesson – agile, collaborative, and distributed teams are key to business resiliency and continuity.
These teams can’t reach their full potential without the proper technology. That’s why the future of work will rely on open ecosystem collaboration platforms, especially as organizations continue on their digital transformation journeys in the years to come.