Collaboration Tools – As You Like It

January 17 2020Marten Bütow

Microsoft Office is the standard for the digital workplace – and not only among Baby Boomers. Even when you talk to college or high school students: hardly anyone can imagine a world without Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. As such, these Microsoft products have become part of our human (IT) heritage, despite the various open-source initiatives. No matter whether they’re provided from a public cloud, a private cloud, or a hybrid model. Will they remain the collaboration tools of the future workplace? When asked this question, our students shrug their shoulders.

The digital workplace is flourishing

The collaboration landscape is in change, of course. There are demands and user requirements beyond Microsoft’s workplace trinity. Microsoft has long recognized this and expanded its suite significantly – for example, with products like Teams and Skype for Business, which offer a wealth of collaboration functions.

But the situation with these collaboration tools is different: they are reminiscent of the potpourri of email providers. We all know alternatives to Outlook/Exchange, which we use for work but largely ignore when it comes to personal use. From T-Online to Mail.com and Gmail, there is an abundance of services that we have known from the web for years and that have considerable numbers of users. The former collaboration vacuum outside basic Office services has been filled considerably in recent years. Some of the aspiring services, like Slack and Zoom, have even gone public.

New collaboration tools are entering companies

In line with the “consumerization of IT”, a buzzword born several years ago, these web-based services are increasingly growing beyond the private sphere and entering the business world as part of the digital workplace. And it’s clear, of course, that these established services will not be the end of the collaboration story by far. The possibilities of 5G, augmented/virtual reality, and new devices such as wearables could lead to the rise of entirely new collaboration concepts and tools (and their potential fall). In other words: pantha rhei – everything flows.  It seems fairly certain that Office will remain a firm component of enterprise communication and collaboration in the coming years. However – and this is something IT managers have to keep an eye on – new tools from other sources will also emerge as add-ons. Some companies might even switch to Google’s suite or even Facebook Workplace.

Different tasks, different tool set

The fact is, different workplace requirements and employee characters mean different tools and functions are always needed. It is therefore questionable whether a monolithic approach with an expansive suite can optimally serve these different demands of the digital workplace. Flexible collaboration concepts for dynamic working have to think outside the suite approach. They have to be open, practically lively. They have to be able to respond to the requirements of their users. In addition, they have to guarantee the necessary security and – when companies want to grab the future workplace bull by the horns – must also have attractive pricing.

IT complexity is increasing

For the IT team at the company, the digital workplace means a vast increase in complexity. The “motor pool” grows. You have to combine the various collaboration tools from different vendors to create a comprehensive package that enables optimal efficiency and freedom of choice. In other words, an “as you like it” – where “you” means the end users, not the corporate IT department.

The package doesn’t only include provisioning and integrating the services, but also ongoing support of all tools for all sourcing variants (which makes the hybrid mode practically inevitable). This can quickly lead to having to manage a complete digital workplace ecosystem – and a dynamic one, to boot: which services will be discontinued? Which services are in demand and will be added?

Collaboration 365 – The future digital workplace

Dynamic work and simplicity for end users at the digital workplace, with an optimized tool set for employees, can dramatically improve enterprise efficiency, but at the expense of burdening the internal IT department. A dynamic, flexible digital workplace tool set approach can only be realized through an end-to-end concept. We call this concept “Collaboration 365” – and it even works in leap years. With this new approach to the future workplace, we combine three characteristics: we want to give companies flexibility, enable secure working in a dynamic environment, and at the same time cut costs. If you’re interested in finding out what’s behind Collaboration 365, read our white paper which will be available soon or simply send me an email. Or you can continue as a loyal blog reader.

About the author

Marten Bütow

Senior Solution Sales Manager, T-Systems International GmbH

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