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Monoculture vs. Jungle

March 13 2020

Long live collaborative diversity!

“Welcome to the Jungle” – you can already hear the classic from Guns N' Roses in your head. And it leads us directly to the place where many workplace managers pull their hair out: the jungle of seemingly limitless collaborative possibilities. Can the monoculture that is MS Office still hold its own against the diversity of new collaboration concepts? Honestly, no. For most companies, the old-fashioned way of doing business – at least as far as cooperation is concerned – has had its day. The collaboration landscape is on the move and the jungle is becoming even more colorful and diverse. And companies are asking themselves: which solution suits us best?

MS Teams as central distributor in the digital workplace

The replacement for the office package comes from their own ranks: with Teams, Microsoft has opened a new chapter for collaboration tools and has consistently been moving towards modern public cloud provisioning. To expand the digital workplace, the system is only available as a cloud solution; there is no longer an offline package version. Teams acts as the first point of contact and work distributor: exchange orders, for example, are sent to the data center in Dublin and file storage to a SharePoint in Amsterdam. In the truest sense of the word, Teams thus ensure an international division of labor – in other words, true collaboration – and ensure elegant, seamless collaboration. This is what makes it the central switching point of the digital workplace – and creates important conditions for the future of the workplace.

Is it all just hype?

The collaboration tool from Microsoft is sensible and well thought out. According to Microsoft, the tool already had 13 million daily users at the middle of last year, and the trend is still rising. If we are to listen to the inevitable critical voices ringing through the jungle, this is just hype. The opposing side predicts that old working practices surrounding email and document-based processes will disappear. And the truth? In this case, too, it’s somewhere in between. The smart office of tomorrow is not created by displacement, but by sensible additions. After all, Teams certainly cannot meet all conceivable requirements and needs that companies have. In addition to purely technical expectations of functionality, it is mainly regulatory aspects such as compliance and data security that prevent companies from jumping on the Teams bandwagon.

Hybrid cloud services create security

Sectors such as aviation, banking, insurance, and even public institutions must meet specific requirements from supervisory authorities. In this respect, the provision from a public cloud is still a major hurdle. They are sometimes caught in a bind between the technical requirements of their employees and the specifications of the regulators. Regulated companies that purchase Teams licenses in this context may not be able to use them to the extent they planned. And this generates costs without any real equivalent value. In a closed private cloud, on the other hand, far-reaching security mechanisms can be established – and all those collaborative processes that would not be in good hands in the publicly accessible world of Teams or other public cloud environments can be mapped. Companies that have to meet special requirements in terms of data security and compliance are well advised to use different sourcing models. A smart mix of public and private cloud services creates a hybrid environment in which services meet both employee demands and regulatory requirements.

Today mangroves, tomorrow elephant trees

Yes, the jungle is full of unusual shrubbery. The diversity of species in botanical ecosystems is a wonderful metaphor for the diversity of individual processes and conditions that every company must take into account for a successful collaboration concept. So if one application is in particular demand today, then completely different collaborative workflows will have to be mapped tomorrow – and not just flexibly but scalably, too. It's a good thing that the supply now matches the demand. And the range of highly specialized applications that can be used by employees at distributed locations according to their specific needs is growing: for example, while designers swear by the Adobe Creative Suite, software developers like to use Jira, and agencies prefer to use Sprout Social. In addition, services such as Slack, Zoom, Workflow by Facebook, Zoho, G Suite, and WebEx are flourishing and likewise enjoying growing popularity. The trend here is clearly towards hybrid cloud infrastructures in order to manage this diversity in an integrated manner.

Uncontrolled growth doesn't help, you need the right tools

Every single collaboration tool must be right for the company, its employees, and its processes. The ability to integrate add-ons is essential: for example, if a company unit is already using Dropbox or Google Drive, this functionality should be retained even after the introduction of another collaboration solution. Otherwise, the data stored there will be lost – not irretrievably, but it will be more complicated to integrate it into existing workflows. All the better if these existing tools can be addressed via APIs and thus systematically integrated into new central collaboration platforms. It is also beneficial if a system allows companies to use their existing, proprietary security infrastructure for encryption – and not exclusively that of the tool provider. This not only saves on stress, but also allows a higher level of security.

Extra loop for seamless collaboration

The essence of a good collaboration concept is clear: the digital workplace must provide a consistent user experience. This means that not only the services of different manufacturers have to be integrated, but also that different sourcing options have to be combined. This extra loop and the integration of hybrid cloud services can be easily implemented with an experienced, carrier-independent provider for digital workplaces. We would be happy to advise you on your trek through the collaboration jungle.

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