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?